They’re the best Anime that 2008 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Toaru Majutsu no Index, Shinreigari, Tetsuwan Birdy Decode, and more!
10: Toaru Majutsu no Index
English: A Certain Magical Index
MAL Score: 7.40
Academy City, Japan, is at the forefront of science. Besides being 30 years ahead of the world technologically, more than three-fourths of this peculiar city’s population consists of students developing their psychic abilities as espers in various institutions. Among these students is Touma Kamijou, a high school boy with the lowest psychic rank of zero, but with a mysterious power no scientist can understand: “Imagine Breaker,” which allows him to negate other supernatural abilities.
This, however, doesn’t affect Kamijou’s life in the least as he plays his role as a regular teenager; that is, until he meets the strange Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a young girl who has memorized the entirety of the forbidden grimoires, and now a dangerous organization is hunting Index down. With several magicians looking to harm the girl, Kamijou will defend his new companion at all costs as he discovers a strange new realm of the supernatural.
One of the greatest battles that mankind has ever witnessed is the battle between science and religion, a battle that is still being fought today. So just imagine, what will happen if people with supernatural abilities existed and both these sides got hold of people whose special abilities that are nothing short of miraculous? So how exactly does this relate to To Aru Majutsu no Index? Well I suppose a short summary of the story is in order.
Now To Aru Majutsu no Index (which I would just refer to now as Majutsu no Index) is set in a world where both science and magic coexist. Kamijou Touma, you regular high school kid lives within a place called Academy City, the so called “utopia of science” as well as an utopia for a new type of people known as ESPers, people who can have supernatural abilities by controlling the laws of science. Kamijou Touma, being a student in the Academy City, has a strange power called “Imagine Breaker”, a skill which allows him to dispel anything magical or is a product of ESPer powers. On the other hand, there is Index Prohibitorum Librorum (or Index for short), a nun who has the superhuman ability to remember virtually anything and has memorized in her mind 103,000 grimoires concerning magic that is prohibited by the church or is otherwise just far too dangerous to be used. One day, Touma found a starving Index hanging in his balcony after being chased by mysterious men, begging him for food. This is where the story starts as Touma finds himself in the middle of all the problems concerned with letting a walking manual for destruction live in his house.
Now, you gotta admit, the idea of science and magic clashing against each other is a pretty freaking good concept, and a good concept always mean a good anime right? Well, Majutsu no Index had pretty much everything that a good anime has: a good concept, interesting premises, and a recipe for romance. Unfortunately, it failed to use its full potential as an anime because of certain mistakes made by the producers of this anime.
So let’s start off with the story. As I’ve said, Majutsu no index is set on interesting premises yet it failed to fully utilize all of its hidden potential. You see, one of the biggest problems here is, or the lack thereof, of a main antagonist because what happened is that the anime was split into two sides : the magic side and the science side.
The magic side is the side concerned with magic aspect of the anime. The plots concerning this side usually just revolves around people who are relentlessly trying to kidnap Index to learn the secrets in her head and wreak havoc upon the earth, those who want to save Index from her perfect memory, which they claim would kill her if they don’t brainwash her every year since she would remember every detail she sees and ultimately overload her brain, and the church which is responsible for pretty much all of Index’s problems. And obviously, it’s Touma’s job to protect Index which he usually does by talking and punching the said magicians into submission. Though that way of solving things isn’t really all that bad, what really makes the magic side so terrible is that it’s quite episodic when it comes to plot. The plot from one arc to another just doesn’t add up and that makes it quite terrible: the fact that it has no continuality.
The science side on the other hand, is a heck lot more interesting in terms of plot than the magic side. It revolves around the concept of leveling up ESPers. You see, the thing with ESPers is that they are ranked using levels, starting from level 0 (which is by the way, Touma’s level) and above. This is done in order to measure how strong an ESPer is with level 0 being weakest, virtually having no powers, and those with higher levels having stronger powers. The current highest level ESPers have been able to attain is level 5, a title which seven different people in Academy City hold. The story focuses on two of these level 5 ESPers, namely Misaka Mikoto, who was the ability to control electricity and is a friend to Touma, and The Accelerator, who can control and redirect vectors at will. What happened is that Academy City decided to create the first level 6 ESPer, and there are only two ways to do it: Either have a level 5 ESPer kill roughly 128 other level 5 ESPers, or to have a level 5 ESPer kill 20,000 level 3 ESPers. Seeing as they only have seven level 5 ESPers, they opted for the other method: have a level 5 ESPer, namely The Accelerator, kill 20,000 level 3 ESPers. Now the question is where do they get 20,000 level 3 ESPers?
If you haven’t noticed by now, yes, I am biased towards the science side of the story but there is a good reason for that. As I’ve said, what this series lacks is the presence of a main antagonist, and what the science side gives is just that, along with a solid plot. On the other hand, the magic side is, as I’ve mentioned, quite episodic in nature, jumping around from one antagonist to the other and having no clear goal as to where it would lead the story next after one conflict is solved. This is one of the biggest downfalls of Majutsu no Index and is one of the main reasons as to why it fails to live up to its potential. Another problem with this anime is that the magic and science side of the story almost never crosses each other, despite the fact that they should be two sides of the same coin. This is especially annoying from time to time because it causes quite a few plotholes in the story.
Another one of the problems with Majutsu no Index lies in its characters. I’m not saying that they are bad, it’s just that they are so cliché it hurts. We have Kamijou Touma, who’s definition of unlucky is seeing naked chicks and getting “in touch” with the ladies (gee, I haven’t seen that before), Index, who is your regular hyperactive loli, Misaka, nicknamed biribiri, who is your run-of-the-mill tsundere, and others who would take too long to mention. But of course, that isn’t the real problem, as cliché characters can still be interesting despite the fact that they are, well, cliché.
The real problem is that the makers of the anime desperately try to make Touma, the main character, look badass when in fact, he’s not. And for the sake of doing this, they pretty much confine most of the other characters to the sidelines. This becomes very apparent during the latter half of the show, when pretty much every problem ends up being solved when Touma punches the antagonist in the face.
But of course, not all of the characters are bad. Take Accelerator for example. Aside from being the main antagonist for the majority of the science side plotline, he is also the one of the few characters that received a noticeable amount of character development. As the story introduced him as an evil psycho who is willing to kill tens of thousands to gain power, he was later shown to have a softer side who cares for others more than he seems .Other than him, most of the other anime characters just receive minimal amounts of development, maybe aside for one more character though discussing her here could spoil the story.
So far, the only redeeming feature Majutsu no Index has is in its animation and music. The Art was just the way I like it, clean, smooth, and shiny just like most of the newer animes today, though there are times when the movements seem a little bit choppy but this is barely noticeable and doesn’t really affect the overall experience of watching this anime. The music on the other hand is just plain freaking awesome. The first and second openings, both J-pop songs, where sung by Kawada Mami which are in my opinion, just perfect for the theme of the anime: fast-paced and somehow had a futuristic tune to it.
So overall I’d have to say that To Aru Majutsu no Index is more or less an average anime. It’s an anime with a good concept and interesting premises, it just happened to have been unable to fully utilize its full potential. Still though, that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad anime. It does have moments where it shines and shows some pretty amazing scenes. Unfortunately, it couldn’t maintain that level of goodness throughout which becomes one of its downfalls. So this isn’t really something that I would personally recommend, but if you’re stuck with nothing to watch, or maybe you’re one those who have a liking for shounen animes with a little bit of romance here and there then why not give this a shot. Who knows, you might come to like it more than I did.
So to provide a quick summary, here are a list of pros and cons:
+ It has a good concept: Science against Magic
+The openings, both sung by Kawada Mami, were awesome J-pop songs
+The art was clean and smooth
+The Science side of the story had a good plotline
+The Accelerator is just a badass antagonist
-The anime was unable to use its full potential and due to half of the story, the magic side, being terrible
-The makers of the anime were trying too hard to make the protagonist of the story, Touma, look badass despite the fact that he was not
-The animation can get a little choppy at times, though this isn’t too noticeable
-The characters are quite cliché
~First and foremost, thanks for reading my review. If you have any comments regarding my review or just want to have a discussion, then leave a comment at my page. I will greatly appreciate it. =)~
The characters themselves are just so two dimensional and uninteresting that you dont care for their story at all. Not to mention they all have to have some gimmick to distinguish them from another character.
As far as genre goes TAMI is a shonen type action show but thats being too generous in my opinion. TAMI’s action scenes never go past 1-3 actions before they have to talk for 90% of the fight about something that wont even matter once the conflict is resolved, and all the main character ever does is punch people.
TAMI isnt necessarily bad but its just so plain that you find yourself wondering why you’re even bothering with it? It tries to be funny but always throws the same gags at you that you just dont care for them. I think theres some wasted potential here and thats a shame because I really wanted to like this show
“When magic and science crosses path, what will happen?” is how I would have liked to start this review. However the answer to that would have simply be “nothing” since, although both sides exists in the same place, there were hardly any interaction between them. So instead, I will begin by asking Index what she meant by accompanying her to the depth of hell. She was hardly present for half the show and during the rare occasions when she is in an episode, she gets sidelined and become a minor character with absolutely no impact to the story (beside biting Touma on the head).
So what happened to those 103,000 magical texts? With the exception of the first few episodes and the last episode or two, where Index as a character actually matters to the plot, there is practically zero reference to the 103,000 magical texts for 80% of the show. Granted the production studio (J.C. Staff) wanted to follow the novel as closely as possible (and they did a very good job at it), it is understandable for the abrupt ending to the story thus far. But it still makes no sense for the story’s centerpiece to be dangling here and there with no sense of purpose in the various story arcs.
If one were to ignore the problems mentioned above, then the overall production quality of Toaru Majutsu no Index is actually quite good. Decent animation from J.C. Staff (though sometimes the distant shots seem lacking in detail) plus a great cast of seiyu make this anime a pleasant watch to those who don’t really mind a poor storyline. Don’t get me wrong though, the mini arcs throughout the show which introduces and help create character developments are great in themselves. However, once the dust settles, it always makes me wonder what happen to the story that was suppose to center around Index.
Character-wise, most were introduced to compliment the particular story arc (with the exception of the main protagonists). Afterward, they will tend to “fade” to the back sometimes making a few seconds appearance here and there with no significance. In terms of character development, not much observable changes occurred for the male protagonist and Index which can be attributed to the faithful following of the novel (since there wasn’t that much matter to talk about at the time of the anime production). On the other hand the co-heroine/main protagonist, Mikoto, of the Railgun series (a spinoff of Toaru Majutsu no Index) did show considerable character growth which makes her shine like a bright star among the group of relatively static characters.
Those familiar with Shana will instantly ring a bell in their head as they watch the first OP of this series. If the OP does not make you go “OMG, this sounds similar to Shana’s OP!”, then perhaps watching the daily interaction between Index and Touma will help ring some bells. To be more precise, one can even replace Index with Shana and voila, you have yourself Shakugan no Shana III. The point I am trying to make here is the similarities between the two anime.
1. From the same production company.
2. At least one of their OP theme is sang by the same singer (Kawada Mami).
3. Shana = Index, Yuji = Touma.
So what am I trying to say here? It means that if you enjoy watching Shakugan no Shana, feel free to give this anime a try. The magician (magic) vs esper (science) theme advertised by Toaru Majutsu no Index does have its selling points, but I just think it desperately need a sequel to really link the various bits and pieces together. I enjoyed the mini arcs (whether they are filler or not), those irrelevant mini stories were very entertaining and they help keep my mind off Index. But once I start thinking deeper into the character ties and relationships, there is just something missing about the purpose of Index. Perhaps a hopeful sequel will fill in the missing puzzles, but as things stand right now the story really hurts the show.
English: Ghost Hound
Japanese: 神霊狩 GHOST HOUND
MAL Score: 7.44
Strange things are happening around the town of Suiten. The daughter of a priest begins to see strange visions, spirits have started to roam the mountains, and Tarou Komori is having unsettling dreams. Due to the trauma of being kidnapped 11 years ago, he has repressed most of the memories that could shed light on what really happened all those years ago. But they return in his sleep, combined with encounters beyond the realm of dreams.
In Shinreigari: Ghost Hound, the supernatural and psychological collide, as three children struggle to face their demons and repair the breach between the spiritual and corporeal worlds.
~ s t o r y ~ 8 / 10 ~
If some of you think: ‘Those cute characters and a psychological plot? No way!’ I am glad to tell you, that you are wrong. At first, when I saw, that GH is of 22 episodes, I was sure, that it will be verbose and / or tedious (i’m used to 13-episode psychological animes), but I’m glad I tried watching it despite that thoughts. Of course, the plot needs a half of the first episode to take off, but once it does, it doesn’t stop (actually, it’s going faster and faster to the climax). The anime is a specific type of an illustrated encyclopedia: trauma, mental disorders, possession, out-of-body experiences, mind, brain, afterlife and more – every one of these is shown in a few different points of view, either scientific or spiritual. I gave it an 8, because I just expected something more. The plot is not confusing at all, I mean, there is the puzzle-mode on, but once explained, it becomes perfectly clear. At least some of the aspects…
~ a r t ~ 9 / 10 ~
I love the idea of different angles and showing the action from the characters point of wiew. The landscapes and character projects are quite nice. Some of the ghosts, retrospections or halucinations are drawn really CREEPY. And by creepy I mean, that at night when going to the bathroom you wish not to find anything like that in your room when you come back. They’re so random, they give goosebumps. The thing I dislike, is what they did to OBE – but, oh well, it’s just an anime, not a science book.
~ s o u n d ~ 9 / 10 ~
Not much of music, but when it’s finally playing in the background, it has a feel of GITS’s soundtrack. Old japanese music, just without the vocals.
IMO the opening was the worst: it really didn’t suit the anime.
~ c h a r a c t e r ~ 1 0 / 1 0 ~
Characters are the metier of Ghost Hound. Nicely designed, with vivid personalities. Everyone will find a bit of himself in some of them.
~ O V E R A L L ~ 9 / 10 ~
Great series with an enjoyable plot, nice art and sound and wonderful, mysterious characters. However, I recommend this anime only for people who like psychological series – others may think of Ghost Hound as a waste of time.
Have fun ^^.
It is about four different kids who have suffered from different traumatic events; in their past and now have the ability to traverse this “unseen world”. That’s just the initial plot of the series and as the story begins, you will see a bunch of stuff and have no idea what on earth is going on. Slowly but surely, little bits of this mysterious and uncanny story are revealed and during this process you’ll be force fed a lot of psychological terminology. Yet it still takes some time for the story to become somewhat interesting. Then you’ll be able to enjoy the series, as it develops into a sensational experience, whilst learning a fair bit of neurology, psychology and Japanese folklore. At the same time it is easy to consider dropping the series, for those who are unable to get into it.
The animation quality of this anime was superb, having an extraordinary amount of detail put into the little-less things and with interesting, surreal surroundings when expressing the unseen world. The characters were well designed and moved fluidly but the pale colour tones did make some look unappealing. At least the rich environments and scenery made up for the short comings.
It was pretty tricky to judge this anime on the quality of the sound, because there wasn’t much there. During the weird apparitions and flashbacks there was a great deal of weird SFX used, to which is perfect for setting the creepy mood. However with barely any music at all, in the end, it just sounded pretty bland.
Overall this is a mildly interesting anime showing the parallels of the psychological and the supernatural however other than the technical aspects of this anime (e.g. animation), this series can be a pretty dull and lifeless experience. With so much terminology to take in, anyone can feel like dropping this at any moment and going for a much easier show to understand. But the series does become fairly interesting to watch later on, when things become clearer and the story finally start to move forward. So before watching this series you’ll have to think to yourself, “Is this the type of series I would enjoy?”
8: Tetsuwan Birdy Decode
English: Birdy the Mighty: Decode
Japanese: 鉄腕バーディー (2008)
MAL Score: 7.44
While pursuing an alien fugitive, Birdy Cephon Altera—a bombastic police officer from the Space Federation—finds herself on Earth. Her target, Geega, has disguised himself as a human and assimilated into the fashion industry, so Birdy follows suit and joins a modeling agency, taking on the identity “Shion Arita.” Her position as a rising model has her posing for photo shoots by day and chasing intergalactic criminals by night.
Meanwhile, Tsutomu Senkawa, an average high school student, explores an abandoned building with his friend, and coincidentally, Birdy has tracked down Geega to the same building. Senkawa briefly witnesses the battle before being seized as a hostage by Geega. However, Birdy, oblivious, attacks Geega and accidentally kills Senkawa. Distraught, she quickly decides to save him by integrating his consciousness into her body.
Now, Birdy and Senkawa must not only cohabitate the same body, but also balance Senkawa’s high school life, Shion Arita’s modeling career, and Birdy’s increasingly dangerous job as a Federation officer.
The original Tetsuwan Birdy manga was created by Yuuki Masami (who is more well known for his Mobile Police Patlabor series), and ran in Shounen Sunday Super magazine. However, Yuuki’s work on Kyuukyoku Chojin R (The Ultimate Esper "R"), for the same magazine eventually led to the manga being abandoned. The original manga was received rather well though, which led to it’s adaptation as a four part OVA.
It wasn’t until a few years later that Yuuki went back to the original Tetsuwan Birdy series, and instead of continuing with the series from the time it was abandoned, he decided to do a complete revision of the series from scratch. The new series, Birdy the Mighty II, began serialisation in Weekly Young Sunday magazine in 2003.
The story for both the original OVA and the new series generally follows the same path. Intergalactic police officer Birdy Cephon Altera and her cyborg partner Tute arrive on Earth in pursuit of a wanted alien criminal and, whilst chasing that criminal, she accidentally kills a high school student named Senkawa Tsutomu. However, this is not the end for Tsutomu as the Federation that Birdy works for will provide him with a new body. In the interests of not causing undue alarm to the people around him (and letting him continue with his life), Tsutomu’s "soul" is merged with Birdy’s body (allowing them to switch between each other), whilst his new body is made.
In all honesty, I preferred the story in the OVA. The new series, whilst being more in depth, also tends to drag its heels with regards to the plot. The OVA had a much tighter story, and the pacing was far better because of the time constraints. The new series, whilst giving more information, is also guilty of not using the extra time in the series to drive the story forward. Indeed, there are to many occasions in the new series that can only be described as "filler" moments (thankfully though, there’s no real filler episodes).
The most noticeable thing about this series is the quality of the artwork and the animation. The character designs are very much in keeping with both manga, however the level of detail in the designs is superior than that of the OVA. The backgrounds are often very well done, and the CG sequences are very smooth, especially during the sequences in space. A-1 pictures have done some excellent work animating the show, and nowhere is this more noticeable than in the various action sequences. The various fights and chases are extremely fluid and surprisingly detailed.
Sound is another big plus for this series, and is definitely better than that of the OVA. The sound effects used throughout the show are generally very good, although some of the effects can be a little odd in their usage. The OP is a pretty good J-rock track by Hearts Grow, entitled Sora. I have to admit that I much prefer the track used for the ED though, as it seems more in keeping with the slightly whimsical nature of the show.
Birdy is actually a pretty good character on the whole. During her time on Earth she moonlights as an up-and-coming idol named Arita Shion. The nice part about giving Birdy a "secret identity" is that it allows more of her playful personality to come to the fore.
Tsutomu, on the other hand, is more of a typical high school boy of the type that appear in many anime. The relationship between Birdy and Tsutomu works surprisingly well however, especially during the time they share one body. There is a definite chemistry between the two characters that was never really developed in the OVA, and the conversations between the two are often lively.
The downside though, is that a number of the other characters aren’t developed well (or at all in some cases). Some of the more prominent characters (Nakasugi Sayaka and Satyajit Shyamalan for example), could have received a great deal more development than the show provided, especially in the case of Shyamalan.
That said though, this is still a entertaining series. There’s enough going on in the show to keep you interested, although the end of the show was rather predictable. I did enjoy the series on the whole, and whilst it may be superior to the OVA in many respects, it doesn’t have the same pacing or the tight storyline of the original.
This is a show that action fans may enjoy, but it may also appeal to those who want to see a strong female lead. If you simply want a show that’s got action without being too serious, then it may be worth giving this a try.
Given a choice though, I would go for the OVA before watching this.
I just finished watching Birdy – Decode and I have to say "Great series". The story itself was good in this series. Maybe they had spread it over 12 ep. instead of just 4 OVA’s back then. I remembered watching the "Birdy" first OVA’s many moons ago and I was like "eh" about the anime back then. When I saw they were coming out with an 12 episode series, I was willing to give it a try and happy I did. It’s refreshing to see a anime thats different from your run of the mills anime. I’m sad that it ended, but I’ve enjoyed every episode and can’t wait for the 2nd season.
The animation was crisp and smouth especially the fighting scenes. The color palet theyused is very soft, not to loud in some anime I watched. Also the voice acting was great. Also the bgm was good not to heavy, just right. I also enjoyed the OP and ED music they used. Very up-beat and goes with the anime.
The characters designs are great. Every one was drawn completly different from the other and aways wore something different. Also they we’re believable and wasn’t annoying.
Overall, I really enjoyed this series to the point that when it finished I wanted to see whole series again at that point. I strongly recommend "Tetsuwan Birdy Decode" To anyone who want to see something different. I also recommend that you watch the first OVA’s before watching the series to see the diffence between them.
I actually found this show when it was recommended to me on Netflix. It looked interesting so I gave it a shot. Birdy had a pretty original premise and that was what initially got me hooked. It seemed like it was going to be mostly an action-based series with aliens thrown in, which is exactly what it is at times, but a lot of the fight scenes are pretty intense and fun to watch. The story didn’t focus entirely on the intergalactic alien hunter aspect of the series though which was nice, call it a pleasant case of Multiple Personality Disorder. It added a little bit of comedy, mystery, and some romance from Tsutomu’s part in the series. This worked out to be a nice balance as it gave enough to satisfy the cravings of those action junkies out there while providing general entertainment for those other viewers.
The show climaxed nicely with everything that had been building up and the ending was so bitter-sweet that it actually made me like the series more. However, the ending was far from conclusive for the Birdy franchise as a whole. The last episode left with more questions and mysteries left unsolved than when the season began, working as a nice setup for season 2. Unfortunately I will say that the show has a tendency to drag its heels at times, moving the pace to almost a crawl occasionally. And while no episode is truly filler as something important to the story always happens, there still were a lot of moments that served only to slow the series down.
I thought that the art for Birdy was pretty good, actually really good, which is most likely the result of it being a newer title. There was a pretty nice mix of CGI and animation which helped when combined with the overarcing theme of sci-fi and aliens. The fight scenes were always nice to watch and were nice and dark and gritty. On the flip side when the animators wanted to they came out with some really nice looking peaceful and artistic scenes and some nice everyday animation.
My only problem with the animation was that sometimes things looked TOO nice. It kind of reminded me of watching the special effects that you see from movies in the 70’s or 80’s in that things didn’t look right with the rest of the scene. Sometimes the animation would be so intricate and detailed that the scene or one aspect of the scene would look clunky or awkward in regards to the rest and that took away from the overall experience at times.
All of the characters had extremely unique appearances so there was no possible way of confusing one character with another, I’ll chalk that one up to a plus for the animators and animation. The development of these characters was not quite as refined however. Most of the character development in our main twosome is through Birdy by means of various flashbacks and references from other characters, but these are usually left untouched and are a part of the slew of mysteries that were left at the end of the series. Birdy’s alter ego Shion Arita, while not making many appearances, served to add a dash of humor to the series at times too. Tsutomu was a pretty average male anime lead but he grew up a bit over the series, apparently dying does that to you, or maybe it’s just puberty, I can’t say for sure, and there were definitely times where he showed some balls throughout the series.
On a side note this reminds me of another point I wanted to make. Despite the fact that this show is about a teenage boy sharing a body with a hot alien girl, Tsutomu always remains a perfect gentleman and doesn’t act weird when he’s riding around in Birdy’s body. The series refrained from using that plot point as an excuse for having weird ecchi moments with Tsutomu and Birdy for cheap kicks. This show was about as un-ecchi as you can get. Birdy takes like 20 baths over the course of the series but not once does Tsutomu try to say or do something weird or perverted with their body, which makes me give major props to the director of this show for not tailoring to those who only picked up the series because there was a hot alien girl as the main character.
Some of the background characters have important roles in regards to the main story. Others have absolutely no relevance to it at all. And still others appear to have some role but that role is unknown for now and the viewer won’t know for sure until…you guessed it, season 2. As for the primary antagonists, they aren’t really given a good amount of devlopment either but it doesn’t particularly hurt the story in any way.
The opening theme “Sora” wasn’t anything unique but it was still pretty good and I liked it while the ending theme “Let’s Go Together” is just a fun and peppy “just don’t give a fuck” kind of song that was always pretty enjoyable.
This was a pretty good action show. It was a pretty good sci-fi show. It was also a pretty good looking show with some good characters and a good plot. Basically what I’m saying here is that Birdy the Mighty: Decode is a solid show all around and if you don’t mind it being a bit slow, I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t enjoy it. It’s diverse in the genres that it throws at the viewer, it’s a unique story, and it leaves you wanting more at the end. Overall I would highly recommend this series for action, sci-fi, and overall anime fans in general.
7: Casshern Sins
English: Casshern Sins
Japanese: キャシャーン SINS
MAL Score: 7.52
In a distant future, Earth has become a wasteland and humanity as we know it has died out. All that remains are sentient robots. They were supposed to be able to live forever—until the one called Luna died and The Ruin started. Their bodies will rust, and there is nothing that can be done to fix it. Now the robots are left only to contemplate their deaths, kept going only by the rumor that if they eat the one called Casshern they will gain immortality.
Casshern knows nothing about his past, why he exists or what he is, but he must find out or he will face the constant torment of being hunted by robots who don’t want to die. Casshern leaves death wherever he goes, but he must face it if he is to find out the truth of this world.
Like most good shows, Casshern is amazing in a number of areas and wouldn’t be the same without any of them. The soundtrack, voice acting, animation, directing, fights, dialog, art – everything aligns just right to create a show that is just about perfect for what it is. I’ll be getting into detail on that now.
Casshern Sins has a very powerful and gripping soundtrack composed by Kaoru Wada (Princess Tutu, Tekkaman Blade, To Heart). The songs are all symphonic, ranging from minimalist and pretty to towering and sinister. The loud songs are very intensely dramatic and dark to the point that some (like the first track Sins) sound outright evil. (Interestingly, that song sounds like the symphonic version of an Opeth song.) The calmer songs are usually very airy and often acoustic-guitar driven. They definitely evoke images of Casshern’s world where you’ve heard them in the background. While either type is great, I prefer the calm songs if only because the more dramatic ones would go better with the show.
There is something very mysterious but also very charming about these calmer songs. They bring a sense of wonder mixed with familiarity. It’s a sense like seeing something totally new, but so enthralling that it feels like home. The ultimate song that captures this feeling is ‘Memory Past’ which is the song that usually played whenever Casshern met someone new and learned their story. The closest real musical comparison I have for this OST is the music in Phendrana Drifts in Metroid Prime which has always been some of my favorite composition. In the context of the series, all of the songs work superbly well to add ten extra layers of tone onto the already tone-tacular series. The music is notable straight from episode 1, which I guess it’d have to be to make me go and find the OST.
In addition to the OST, there has been a Best Theme Collection from this series. The show has one opening theme (Aoi Hana by color bottle) and 3 endings (Reason by KANA, Aoi Kage by Otoya Kichiemon, and Hikari to Kage by Kuno Shinji), the second of which is only used for one episode. The best theme collection has the op and main eds in TV size, several instrumental versions of Aoi Kage, two original tracks by Wada Kaoru, two important vocal insert songs from te series (Sky and A Path by Nami Miyahara who voices Lyuze), and finally, both the original Tatakae! Casshan! theme and a new, heavy version of the song by Otoya Kichiemon.
I personally didn’t care much for the 2 main eds, but I found myself completely unable to skip the op for even one episode. It is easily one of my favorite opening songs in a while. Aoi Kage and the modern Tatakae! Casshan! are both awesome because they manage to play heavy metal acoustics. Anything that can do that is automatically awesome. The old-school Tatakae! Casshan! is the ultimate great touch for lovers of old-school tatsunoko songs. However, great as that all is, Sky and A Path were the real reasons I was interested in this release. These songs made episode 8 of the show amazing and reappear at many great moments later in the show. Both are extemely pretty and wonderful, and Nami Miyahara’s English is excellent (evidently she studied English in Australia).
It’s worth making the statement that Casshern Sins has some of the coolest sound effects ever. The effects during fights are visceral, intense, and completely full of impact. Care was taken to make the sound effects just right and give every hit that needed extra edge. I’m thinking that they made a lot of the effects in the studio, seeing as there were very organic sounds of like pots breaking or the creak of metal. It’s pretty rare I think these days for so much craft to go into sound effects in anime, so it’s pretty notable when it does.
As far as voice acting goes, this show amassed a royal fuckton of talent. Being as there were so many minor characters, a lot of voices were required, and Madhouse didn’t skip out on giving every single character a standout voice. For starters, Casshern himself is voiced by Tohru Furuya (certainly most notable as freaking Amuro Ray, as well as Tuxedo Mask, Pegasus Seiya, and Yamcha) which is a very interesting performance. The voice of Casshern is certainly unique, sounding strong but never stern, and in pain but never really weak. The voice adds a lot of mystery to the character, sounding like the robot he is, who doens’t quite understand emotion even though he seems to feel it. The best part though is his wails in agony which are used frequently when Casshern’s body self-repairs. That dude’s wails are frightening.
Nami Miyahara plays Lyuze with the perfect mixture of resolve, confusion, rage, and love. Like Casshern, hers is a very distinct voice. Yuko Minaguchi (Videl – Dragonball, Yawara, Akiko – Kanon) does a completely superb job as Ringo. She should be cast as every single little kid in anime. I’ve never heard a kid voice that managed to sound young and yet in no way annoying. Best kid voice ever. ‘Cho‘ reprises his role as every old man in anime, lol. Akiko Yajime (Diva – Blood+, Shin-chan, Relena Peacecraft, Kuu – Haibane – damn that’s range) brings her mysterious voice to Luna which tricks you with it’s very regal sound until you start to see another side… well that’s a spoiler. Kenji Utsumi (Shenlong – DBZ, Zodd – Berserk, Lt. Armstrong – FMA) is Braiking Boss who he played in the old version of the show as well, bringing a nostalgia factor.
Toshiyuki Morikawa (Who is in everything. His list is totally nuts.) is awesome as Dio. He plays the perfect rival character. His voice has a darkness to it, but not like an evil bad-dude, more like a man driven by dark purposes but full of resolve, which Dio is. Mami Koyama (Lunch – Dragonball – yes, most of the cast worked on Dragonball, Balalaika – Black Lagoon) brings the thunder as Leda who is convincingly evil and conceited, but also has an inner emotional side. Some of my favorite minor character performances include Mami Koyama’s second roll as Lizbell in episode 7 (which is interestng because Koyama is Tohru Furuya’s ex-wife, which when you think about it makes certain scenes very awkward), Tomoko Akiya whose performance as Sophita is borderline creepy and very fun, and Taeka Kawata who plays Nico, the little girl whose brain has been fried.
Casshern Sins is animated by Madhouse. The dudes who brought you (alphabetically) Black Lagoon, Boogiepop Phantom, Death Note, Dennou Coil, Gunslinger Girl, Nana, everything Satoshi Kon, Texhnolyze, Trigun, and X, just to name a few. If you’ve seen none of those, I’ll just say it – they have incredibly high production quality and have been around forever. To give you an idea of how high their budget is, the first half of Casshern Sins aired simultaneously with three other Madhouse shows, the second half with one, all of which had unfaltering high-quality animation throughout. There is pretty much no other studio who can do something like that. So it really comes as no surprise when I say that Casshern Sins has incredibly beautiful animation.
The most instantly and consistently notable thing about Casshern’s art is the luscious backgrounds. The background art is almost incomparably beautiful – almost. Probably only one show matches up to it, it being Mushi-shi, which is why it’s no surprise that Yoshihiko Umakoshi was the art director and character designer for both series (a dual job he’s done for Zipang, Street Fighter Alpha, and Boys Over Flowers, none of which I’ve seen. He also did it for Air Master which doesn’t matter because that show is fugly, probably thanks to budget.) I’ve actually watched an interview with this guy on one of the Mushi-shi DVDs and while he is very boring to listen to, I do remember him saying that he was a perfectionist and would always stress that there be boatloads of detail in the backgrounds, which I guess he’s still up to.
Casshern’s art is almost always barren, lifeless, and cold. The world of Casshern faces ruin (basically, apocalypse) and so there is little life to be found. The landscape is jagged and covered in large mountains, hills, valleys, craters, and deserts of sand and snow. Remnants of civilization can be found, some cold cities have buildings that still tower while others have fallen apart and buildings have become decrepit husks. Some places have become so dry and ruined that the ground has actually crystallized and cracks under every step. Occasionally, though, there are places of lush, brimming life to be found. Secret gardens surviving in caves or wellsprings and oceans. There is definitely a sense of mystery to the world that you can find anything if you look around enough. And, as a character in one episode teaches Casshern, every place in this world is beautiful. As a big fan of dystopic art, I found myself completely enraptured in these wastelands as much as I was mystified by the lush outcropping of life in unexpected places.
Umakoshi’s character designs are drop-dead gorgeous. It takes skills to make a masked superhero with a big red C on his chest and ornamental horns on his helmet fit into a dark, somber setting. But, somehow, he’s done it. Casshern looks like a badass but also looks like he fits into the setting. He is supposed to be a beautiful person, and it’s certainly visible in his design. All of the characters are very tall and lanky, almost like CLAMP designs, but have an added sharpness to them and are actually consistent. I can easily call them some of the best character designs I’ve seen in anime.
What’s most impressive, though, is that a definitive 70s style remains ingrained into the designs. Every one has absurdly big hair and their facial features are very old-school. However, these elements have been perfectly crafted so that the designs still look modern and not ridiculous as they often do when new shows try to use old style. The robots especially represent the old school with their very basic designs, but they have a bloodthirstiness about their designs that makes it unsurprising when they are killing machines. Overall, I’d say my favorite designs from the series were definitely Lyuze and Luna.
Naturally, since this is Madhouse, there are also plenty of exemplary animation techniques. Unfortunately, ANN doesn’t have any animators listed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hiroyuki Imaishi’s (director of Gurren Lagann and animator of all those wacky scenes in shows like FLCL, Mahoromatic, and even FullMetal Alchemist) name ended up on that list since his trademark over-the-top and hyperactive style is used in many of the fights. The show features a lot of ‘sketchy lines‘ and badass shadow effects. The fight scenes often contain mind-blowing animation tricks that will make people who notice these things cream a huge load.
I think that series director and storyboarder Shigeyasu Yamauchi probably had the biggest impact on the way this series turned out. As you can see on his ANN page, he directed a bunch of the Dragon Ball/Z and Saint Seiya movies and had involvement with their main series (and going by their ANN pages, he would have had experience with nearly all of this show’s seiyuu during those times). The experience with those series can be seen heavily in the fight scenes. When Casshern and Dio fight, nearly every strike rockets someone into a wall which explodes just as the other fighter shoots at them like a bullet for the next blow. There are several scenes where the ground around Dio craters under the sheer fluctuation of his power. Yamauchi definitely wanted to bring the scope and intensity of a DBZ fight to this series, which is something I personally have always wanted to see done in a serious anime. It is made a thousand times better by the huge budget of the show which allows the fights to look amazing, cool, and fluid.
Yamauchi definitely has a great sense of dramatic cinematography. Every shot is carefully composed to look as cool as possible, with characters nearly always in some kind of dramatic pose and the light hitting them just right. This is taken to an almost hilarious extent in some of Casshern’s fights against robot armies because he will literally attack them by kind of jumping at them, striking an epic pose, and somehow causing them to explode. Lighting is impeccable and the use of color is very important. Most of the show has a sort of blue and grey hue to it, but when other colors appear they are striking and noticeable against the backdrop of blue. Overall, I think Yamauchi just does a splendid job and probably had a lot of fun with it.
The overall plot in Casshern Sins is so simple that I could detail the whole thing thoroughly in a small paragraph (but I won’t for spoilers’ sake.) The show’s focus is more on the themes that drive the series and the characters representing or interacting with those themes. That said, while the plot is simple, it is very well-presented and interesting, making it a great driving force for the action and themes.
All of the show’s themes relate directly to the conflict between life and death. The dark, barren world of Casshern is on it’s way to ruin and death is ever-present. Every person is directly grappling with death and the end of the world, and those who don’t die just from the ruin usually die at the hands of other robots, especially if they try to attack Casshern. There are few characters who survive their own episode, much less the whole show.
What Casshern, who is immortal, learns in his travels through the dying world is how death effects different people (usually robots). Most of the world desperately clings to life. The strong robots fight and kill each other constantly to steal each other’s parts and try to prolong their lives. The weak search for any means of survival, clinging to little hopes or loosing to despair. Some merely accept the ruin as pleasantly as they can, but more often than not they will turn from this mindset at the slightest sight of hope – namely, the supposed immortality that one will gain if they devour Casshern.
However, not everyone is desperately clinging to life. Casshern encounters some robots and humans who aspire to something without the fear of death. Some teach him that the world is beautiful even in ruin, that there is hope in the world, or that they can live forever in the things that they leave behind. Casshern’s conflict becomes whether or not eternal life is justified or death necessary. He is torn between the sadness of death and the liveliness brought out by it’s presence.
The themes of each episode are interesting and deep, sometimes moving, and more so as they culminate into the over-arching theme. Casshern, as a stark contrast to the world around him that he desperately tries to understand, makes for the perfect receptacle to these themes.
Casshern Sins features surprisingly complex main characters in light of it’s simplistic plot and usually episodic nature. Casshern himself starts off as basically a blank slate with no memories and only knowledge as far as he learns from others. As he experiences the world, he has to weigh his experiences against each other to figure out his own beliefs. His character is kept interesting by the conflicting ideas he develops in relation to those experiences.
Lyuze’s conflict is between her desire to kill Casshern because of him ruining the world, effectively killing her sister, and her growing care for him and changing perception of the world. Casshern’s first companion, Friender, has some pretty great development considering that he is a robot dog who cannot speak. Friender’s emotions are represented through actions, and in those actions we see how he slowly transitions from hating Casshern to trusting him and eventually both protecting him and keeping him under control.
Without spoiling, the villains, Leda and Dio, have their own interesting development. Dio has dreamed of nothing but killing Casshern, while Leda is using dio to try and make the world her own. Each of them is thoroughly explored and developed. Luna, Oji, and Braiking Boss are also great characters with a lot of development, but those are spoilers.
There are a whole plethora of minor characters, most of whom appear just for one episode. Every one of these characters feels alive – they don’t merely expunge their beliefs onto Casshern, but show him the way that they live (or, of course, die) through their actions. Characters come in all variety of personality, shape, and size. (inside joke) Casshern could be said to have the best pseudo-harem since Ginko from Musi-shi.
Casshern Sins is episodic much in the same sense as Cowboy Bebop. The chains of episodic parts are broken up by plot-related episodes, the major characters get their own introspective episodes, and the last group of episodes form the conclusion. There were a couple of less-than-amazing episodes (I remember finding 15 and 16 a bit boring and 21 is kind of ill-done but the next episode justifies it) but otherwise, every episode was great.
All of the plot episodes were superb, especially whenever Casshern and Dio fought, which was always quite epic. Besides the wonderful climactic episodes, I pretty much had 4 favorites. Episode 7, where a woman in a high tower teaches Casshern about the beauty of this ruined world – Episode 8, where a woman wants to spread hope through her song – Episode 12, where a man tries to paint his city his color so that the world will remember him – and Episode 18, and excellent cuckoo nest episode into Lyuze’s psyche.
As I stated in the beginning, Casshern Sins is definitely not for everyone. If you like all kinds of anime regardless of genre and are easily interested in something without it having to be fast-paced, Casshern may be for you. If you’ve always wished that the philosophical plots of pretentious anime would mix with the good fun and awesome fights of shounen action, Casshern may be for you. However, if slowness leaves you bored or action leaves you disinterested, you’ll want to stay away. For me, the show was everything I could have wanted and filled a niche that I’ve long waited for an anime to fill.
Casshern Sins is a remarkable feat, in that it somehow captures every single, minute detail of the human spirit. It achieves this by starting from the very basics and quickly developing on the basics as the series moves on.
One thing that really took me in, is how Casshern Sins truly captured my fear of death. It achieved this through an odd but clever display of writing, by showing us that even the machines that we make will some day fall into decline as rusting scrap metal.
I for one like to identify myself through the materials that I collect and make, and even this review right here is constructing another aspect of myself. Casshern Sins asks, what is the point of all this? I believe the materials that remain after my death will serve as a reminder of my existence, but nothing can escape the harsh reality of time and a millenium from now, it is an almost inescapable fact that those materials that I had so carefully constructed, so thoughtfully made, will just vanish. It is quite frightening and puts true emphasis on the word death.
Things change however, a chance of hope comes along. An ideal that preserves life, immortality.
Many religious affiliations pervade Casshern Sins series. God from the perspective of Catholicism promises a chance of eternal life, I make this comparison as Sins as a robot stands as a metaphor for this deity, a promise for immortality. Building on that concept, the precious beautiful skin of his body only serves to emphasize the prize of such a trait, but being immortal comes at a price. A price that one may not expect. As time wears on, one discovers an infinite sea of potentials, this quest to transcend the boundaries between being just a simple robot engineered to destroy, to becoming ‘human’, not physically but consciously has begun, but once this has been achieved. Who is left to bear witness it? Even though this concept and theme is not exactly original, it must be said that Casshern Sins is particularly noteworthy on how it manages to effectively show this journey of emotional discovery in every excruciatingly painful detail.
Watching this show reminded me of Paulo Coelho’s quote “It is the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary” and it is the simple things in life that Casshern Sins detaches from and allows us to witness as realistically as possible; both the efforts and dramas to recapture these important and sometimes trivial things, but it is these aspects that only elevate the potency of Sins journey. Even when the helping hand of a loyal friend may seem far away, capturing that relatable and simple essence of loneliness has rarely ever made such a profound impact.
A negative aspect to the story can largely be centered on the extremely pessimistic nature of the series and it can arguably fall into the category of angsty melodrama rather than insightful, and many of the concepts that are brought up through the entire series can come across as completely redundant by the series conclusion simply because of the handling. One scene that I wanted to bring up in particular is a scene where a robot finally submits to her desire of wanting to be immortal after reflecting for an entire episode that she wants to die naturally. Whilst it was certainly a powerful scene at the time, thinking back on it, the series only seems to want to be as depressing as possible. Whilst this isn’t always a bad thing, it comes across as forced, and lacks a level of fluidity.
However, with those observations out of the way, it still can’t be dismissed that the overall series has very solid writing and is riveting in how it plays out. Never failing to provide a delicate balance of answers to the many questions that the series asks.
Much of Casshern Sins’ characters are truly integral to the story that the show is telling, and because of the theme heavy story in respect with the series episodic nature. It is only inevitable that many new characters are constantly introduced in order to represent another aspect of a philosophical question/s that the series imposes. A lot of the characters become representations for the themes of mostly hope and despair, but entangles within many varying levels of regret, remorse, guilt, jealousy, occasional romantic struggle and sometimes optimism.
Considering the series episodic nature, a large majority of the episodes do an absolutely splendid job of building characters in such a short time and it is a truly commendable aspect because at times I was almost pushed to tears in some of the more powerful episodes. Saying that, I will have to discredit some of the episodes for having an inconsistent quality, this inconsistency is mostly due to the characters that are being presented, but for the most part the character development is well above average and occasionally phenomenal but these cases are few and far between.
I can only appreciate the characters so far though, because as I said previously there is a varying level of quality in the development of many of the characters, another problem I had with the characters is that many of them have very similar intentions throughout the entire series, it can get a little repetitive at times. Adding onto that; some characters only seemed to be placed there to plunge Sins into a more intense state of guilt and regret. Even though this can be perceived as a problem. The fact remains that this can be ignored to an extent because these characters show that this the series is remaining true to the premise that it has given and does not cop-out, even at the moments when the series becomes unbearable.
Many of the motivations for the characters are understandable, as a dying breed of life suffering from an incurable disease; I imagine it would only be natural for someone to carry out desperate measures when they have been pushed to their breaking point. This is one theme that Casshern Sins portrays better than anything else.
The series artwork does nothing but do what it sets out to do, abysmal and ruined, wrapped up in an unusual mixture of bluish-greyish brownish textures that builds the apocalyptic landscape with powerful ease.
The series takes time to build on its own sorrow in order to emphasize some lovely landscapes that capture the quintessential and brooding style that is reminiscent of an Edward Hoppers painting, two that come to mind are “The Lighthouse at Two Lights”, and “Screaming Monkey Drive In”, pleasant to look at but cringing with a landscape of heart-ache and desperation.
Much of the animation is carefully designed. One noticeable moment was a touch of rust painted below the eye-line of a robot. The moment was heart-breaking and is something that took me by absolute surprise. Rust is deterioration and its symbolic connotation within this scene was used to its utmost potential.
I always look forward to bear witness to the fascinating ideas of art that series from Madhouse Animation studios have to offer and Casshern Sins is a beautiful edition to the collection that is sure to become an influence in the future.
One thing I noticed about the OST was the consistently monotonous style across the board. Which certainly works in the series favor, but a couple of tracks stood out for me: the first one being “Roamer” as it captured the image of one man, simply standing a-top a hill graced in a red sunset, contemplating as to where his feet will take him next, it’s a classic pose and one that holds much weight.
The second one was “Memory Past”, I’m not entirely sure what it was about this track but it just pushed a button in me. It was like I was floating in a sea of water feeling the waves softly carrying me. An interesting perspective to say the least, but I couldn’t help picturing myself as a robot resting in the sand of the shallows feeling the water brush over me. It was a vivid moment, and a beautifully foolish one, it is simply a moment of passing time awaiting the day of no-return.
At the time of watching this series. I think I was in the exact state of mind that was required to enjoy Casshern Sins and I finished it up in a marathon sitting. I tend to love a nice happy show as much as the next fellow but my thirst for drama can be over-bearing at times and Casshern Sins knew how to keep me glued to the couch. I was engaged with every detail that was playing out before me and every bit of terror, every moment of blissful decadence only served to invoke a greater emotional response from me. Those special moments of heart-ache scattered throughout, only serves my interest as keeping Casshern Sins as a worthy investment of my time for years to come.
From what has been discussed I believe that Casshern Sins is a fantastic work, capturing every rigid emotion of the human spirit and melding every element so effectively. Constantly serving as a reminder to the breadth of questions that have been brought up and sought after in this series. Deep, often beautiful questions that serves as a recipe for sympathy and empathy towards all its characters as you bear witness to there destruction.
I find it difficult to recommend this series mostly due to its overbearingly negative nature, and time has shown that not many people like pessimistic series. Nevertheless, for all of those out there who can withstand or perhaps immerse themselves in Casshern Sins battlefield of depression, they will surely find solace in the beauty of its melancholy.
Here’s a good test whether you may or may not like it.
Are you an anime fan one who:
A) Tolerates a continuously oppressively grim atmosphere and a snail-paced plot?
B) Forgives gaping plot holes for the sake of appreciating the heavy symbolism and existentialism?
C) Is fine with an acrobatic fist-fight for every single episode?
D) Doesn’t mind sparse dialogue, one-note and melodramatic characters, and numerous silent introspections?
E) All of the above
If you picked choice E, the chances are in your favor and you may like this style over substance anime.
**No Spoilers really. And I’ll be vague in the analysis as for the most part, you should be the one doing that. Keep in mind, that it can be a depressing anime. **
Concepts, Character, Story-
It doesn’t have much of a plot but has some unique and interesting concepts.
The first half starts episodically, featuring heavily on the surrounding bleak world. Our main protagonist, Casshern, wanders around the barren wasteland and sees how the various humans and robots react towards this post-apocalyptic event that he caused. Suffering from amnesia, he intends to find answers in his placement for this world. Meanwhile, the second half starts explaining the mysteries of what occurs. But it never gets fully resolved and makes gigantic jumps in the narrative. There were sudden shifts in characterization and in the end, becomes incredibly ambiguous.
As for the cast of characters, “naturally wooden” would be the best way to describe them.
The main quintet of Casshern, Lyuze, Ringo, Ouji and Friender appear one-note and simple to evaluate. Their dialogue is sparse, often calling each other’s name many times or simply staying silent the entire time in an artistic way. Also, Casshern may seem also too melodramatic at first, but very slowly develops because of the other characters. The antagonists and robots (if I can even call them antagonists) have simple motives but gets confusing as it changes pace in the second half and stumbles itself near the end.
Regardless of their flat characterization, they give out further meaning towards this post-apocalyptic world in a crucial, yet subtle way. However, for Casshern Sins, it becomes a double-edged sword as non-recurring secondary characters of each episode suffer from redundancy. There are no surprises from seeing what may occur to them (it’s quite predictable and repetitive), but taken upon further necessary examination, they provide some heavy symbolism that manages to be new in its own right episodically.
In all, it depicts a metaphorical setting that not many anime generally would take. There are lengths for ambiguity for it and different interpretations on what they may mean. However, most of the themes are rooted in existentialism and the meaning of life.
Granted, despite its slow pacing and episodic format, I had to binge watch this over the course of 3 days as I’ll end up forgetting the impact of the setting and atmosphere.
Sound and Art/Animation-
As for the OST, Kaoru Wada made it seem like a déjà vu for his InuYasha’s OST. Seriously, I could replace some of the tracks and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. However, it does well to bring out the bleak aspects of the atmosphere and manages to blend into the ambiance. The opening “Aoi Hana” by Color Bottle has a catchy sound that I like but doesn’t fit well overall.
On the other hand, “A Path” sung by Nami Miyahara has some pretty good English pronunciations (even more so with the English version by Caitlin Glass) and bears weight to the overall themes to the anime. It’s very emotionally moving, but it noticeably gets repeated a couple times, though.
Voice acting for both English and Japanese carry out their part when necessary and manages to project the character’s angst for catharsis. One thing that I may have overlooked would be the sound effects. The visceral crunches of the iron clad robots and the most minor of movements such as rustling fabric embellish the complexion of its environment even when dialogue remains tacit. And there are occasions of a show-and-don’t-tell presentation.
When it comes visually, it does well for it. It’s Madhouse what do you expect.
The brown rusting of the robots gives a good contrast to the azure sky. The details are quite beautiful to gaze especially since not much else is going on. The specks of dust and other particles splinter into the air on many occasions and it’s very aesthetically pleasing especially with the flora that sometimes gets presented.
Childlike character designs are juxtaposed towards its more depressing background. The contours are bold and sleek but details are quite simple. The animation features very solid figures with hand-to-hand combat, although I can’t help but easily see the numerous repetitions of each scene. I distinctly remember certain fights and robots being re-used. Because of these repetitions, it makes it feel even more monotonous. It’s a bit unique though as choreographed scenes quickly pan to the smaller details of the area rather than focusing on the characters, having that elegant flair.
While certainly not the most high-budgeted and most amazing animation, its presentation and style is what makes work well for the atmosphere and the anime as a whole.
Enjoyment- 9/10 (first 15 episodes)
7/10 (latter part)
What made me enjoy this anime would be its world. The pacing is intentionally slow and not hamfisted with details, allowing for some thought-provoking ideas on existentialism to leak through. It establishes that ambiance and truly makes it a post-apocalyptic world. Because of this, even if I found many scenes to be melodramatic and not relatable, it manages to get me emotionally that some other anime can’t pull off.
It takes the conventional heroism where the main character is OP, and there are continuous strings of fights for a sense of justice. However, it subverts it as the fights are never thrilling, mostly everyone (including the antagonists) are victims of the decaying society, and the meaning to continue to pursue a goal is grimly lost as one mindlessly wanders around the world, knowing that he is different and must be alone as he loses everyone around him.
Once it starts trying to unravel its mystery, my focus shifted towards that and I was expecting some sort of large revelation that would solve everything. But it doesn’t. Near the end, the pacing speeds up, makes a large shift in unresolved details, and fizzles out in the end.
If I would make an analogy, it’s kind of like Ouji’s dilapidated jeep. It works well slowly, but when it puts the pedal to the metal and makes a large U-turn, the rusted parts start crumbling away because of the Ruin. At least there is still some meaning for that ending.
Overall- a mid-high 7/10 (Good, not average)
The flaws are apparent such as its monotonous pacing and unrealistic characters. If taken at face-value, this anime will be a terrible chore. This anime is not the most accessible as it doesn’t cater the audience’s general accustomed tastes. However, its quality is mostly based on the eye of the beholder through individual experience and appreciation for analyzing. If read in-between the lines in its atmospheric presentation, it will be a unique experience that few ever dwell upon.
6: Macross F
English: Macross Frontier
MAL Score: 7.91
Following a catastrophic war against a race of giants known as the Zentradi, humanity has escaped towards the center of the galaxy aboard a fleet of colonial vessels called the Macross Frontier. As the extraterrestrial threat is left further and further behind, life on Macross Frontier proceeds as usual.
In the year 2059, a young mecha pilot trainee named Alto Saotome and his colleagues are preparing to perform an accompanying routine for the famous singer Sheryl Nome, who has come to Macross Frontier for a concert. During the performance, a biomechanical alien species known as the Vajra make a sudden appearance, breaking through the defensive perimeter surrounding the vessel and crash-landing near the concert venue, plunging the entire city into chaos. As the concertgoers evacuate, a young girl named Ranka Lee is left behind and gets targeted by the Vajra, but she is saved at the last minute by Alto. Following these events, the Strategic Military Services program notes Alto’s skill in battle, resulting in his recruitment to combat the new alien threat.
“Simple, easy to comprehend plot. Skillfully developed love triangle. Masterpiece level animation and music.”
To those who are new to the Macross franchise, you can find some info on it here. Now first to clarify a thing for those who are confused with the “Macross Frontier Deculture Edition”. The difference is simply that the Deculture Edition is the “pilot episode” of the TV series. Another way of putting it is an OVA version of episode 1 of the TV series which was aired ~3 months later.
Taking place 47 years (story-wise) after the original series, Super Dimension Fortress Macross. We are now in the year 2059 AD. The Space War with the Zentradi was long since over and the new migration fleet, Macross Frontier, is now under attack by a new alien race. The story revolves around a love triangle and how the three cope with each other while dealing with the threats from the aliens.
The battle animations are absolutely STUNNING. Fluid CG battle animations to very detailed character outlook are very much the highly for the show. One can even tell that the background for most scenery were well thought out and well designed. Oh, and very consistent quality of animation.
“1st Anime Album in 11 Years to Rank in Japan’s Top 3”
“Two Macross Frontier Singles in Japan’s Weekly Top 10”
“All four of the Macross Frontier singles that have been released have debuted at #5 or higher.”
How does that sound for starter? The Macross series were largely famous for its music as they all played an integral part in every single Macross title. However, one can say Macross Frontier have taken the anime song industry to a whole new golden era! Both the singer and seiyu responsible for singing the second OP won awards for their fabulous works.
A lot of characters developments happened in the latter half of the series making it a bit boring to watching in the beginning (as far as characters are concerned). However this is balanced by Sheryl Nome’s character development which was extremely well done especially toward to the end of the series.We also be Alto and Ranka mature over time (albeit very late in the series).
The series as a whole was very well made with amazing sound effects and graphic. The love triangle between the 3 protagonists was interesting to watch as well. It was painful to see the show end, but at least it was announced that a movie is underway.
*Update on February 10, 2009*
If you liked Macross Frontier, you may be happy to know that it was voted by anime fans a week ago as THE anime of 2008. In addtion, May’n (Sheryl’s singing VA) also got voted as one of the top anime singer.
One of Frontier’s most endearing aspects is that it carries the Macross mythos while never alienating new audiences. Bringing with it all the cliches and plot devices that relegate the Macross universe, Frontier tells an solid stand-alone story that still connects well with the previous series before it. Frontier also succeeds in carrying as many twists as red herrings. This is bound to keep the audience on their feet and doubting any obvious plot twist. Viewers may be disappointed later on though, when some plot twists turn out just like they predicted.
The cast of Frontier is one of those red herrings. From the start, the characters are fresh, lively and interesting, but it’s all a lie because about a quarter of the way through, they all turn into relegated one-dimensional personas and some, like the sad case of main character Alto, stay that way the entire series. Frontier also suffers character-wise from a large starting cast. Many members of the cast will often be unseen for several episodes because so much time is rightfully demanded of Ranka and Sheryl. Because of this, the series does not properly develop anyone’s character, outside an episode dedicated to a single character.
Comparing Frontier to it’s primary ancestor is a dramatic change in animation. Frontier makes full use of CG for concert scenes and battle scenes, and does so without giving the series a tacky feel. Everything looks fluid and detailed, but the series has a penchant for being too detailed in which so much goes on in a single frame that it’s hard to follow, though its arguable if that’s a flaw or not given the psychedelic feel of the concert scenes.
Though Yoko Kanno’s OST is not one of her better works, the sound spotlight falls heavily on newcomers Megumi Nakajima and May’n, who lend their singing talents to Ranka and Sheryl respectively, giving us a jukebox’s worth of catchy tunes each with their own distinctive style. From the viral Deculture jingle to the solemn "Diamond Crevasse" to the surrealistic bubblegum pop of "What ‘Bout My Star", there’s more than enough here to keep your ears happy the whole series length.
Macross Frontier was a series whose characters irritated the bejeezus out of me, but with a solid story, beautiful animation, and steller music, I could tolerate them enough to end this series with a smile on my face. If you’re unfamiliar with the lengthly Macross franchise, this latest installment to the mythos has enough great elements to sell you on checking out the rest for sure. I know it has for me.
Overall, I give Macross Frontier an 8 out of 10.
Most series can be summed up in a few words, and regardless of their implications, some descriptions may throw you for a loop. When you hear the words triangles, music, missiles, more music and even more missiles, what is it that you think of? Most well-versed anime viewers should be thinking of the Macross franchise, as this can effectively sum up a great portion of what it’s all about, ranging from the original series to the latest installment entitled Frontier.
Macross Frontier happens to be a fairly ordinary anime that in its simplicity, loses direction as it progresses, only to attempt to get back on track after wasting lots of time. When you break it down, at least half of the episodes are fillers, and a majority of the rest are short arcs that don’t really connect and flow together to form a solid plot like any good series would. Since this is not an episodic series, this format begins to hurt itself in the long run, as only little bits of crucial information about the grand scheme of things are revealed throughout the series. This makes the progression of the main plot very slow and unnecessarily dragged out. It’s not until the final third of the series that it decides to focus on what can be considered the main plot. Up until this point, the plot was nothing more than a simple “Defend the human race from unknown aliens”, which is already weak in and of itself as it’s really just a poor excuse for some mecha action, but it decided to take a sharp 180 and go down the oh so wonderful conspiracy route.
With this development that couldn’t help but be expected many episodes prior, everything starts to become a giant mess. This was hinted to a few times throughout the beginning of the series, usually only for a very short time period in select episodes displaying things like undercover discussions or trades, so it’s not like it came on unforeseen by the audience. If anything, it happened far too late, as the motives behind Grace and Leon who were originally working together are hardly delved into, and they simply play the bad-guy role because the series needed a better antagonist than random aliens. Both individuals having very grandiose goals of wanting to rule the universe, you can’t help but wonder how they actually planned on executing this in the first place. It is only explained after Grace O’Connor, the great evil mastermind behind everything, had her plans proceed to completion without any hitch at all. Now, having full control over the Vajra, it’s pretty safe to say she holds much more power than anyone else currently, yet, of course, is defeated by the power of… music (Catchy j-pop music at that). A lot of build up was wasted in favor of going this predictable route, and it is basically the equivalent of beating the bad guy through the power of friendship. At the very least, they tried to give some basis for this being possible with information from earlier episodes explaining the power of music within the Macross universe.
Seeing as this all happened in the span of a few episodes, it’s safe to say that pacing became a huge issue, and solidified the fact that most of the other episodes were nothing more than “filler” and short arcs. They could have used this time to begin to develop the plot, but that wasn’t the case. They may as well have cut out these episodes in favor of getting straight to the point, rather than extending the series unnecessarily. With the remaining episodes not being devoted to plot advancement, some character development should be expected in them, however, it’s nowhere near as much as there should have been for how much time was devoted to this aspect. A majority of the remaining episodes used most of their time focused on the love triangle between the three main characters, but the events and developments that took place were usually undermined due to the indecisive and undeveloped protagonist of the series, Alto Saotome. He is also better known by some of the characters as Princess Alto, and for good reason.
And while it may not all necessarily be because of him, he is directly involved in many of the simple plot conveniences used to keep the love triangle from moving forward. Whether it be going out to fight against the Vajra during a crucial time when he was supposed to be with Ranka, or Ranka seeing him with Sheryl and then wallowing in her own sadness about it afterwards. However, with Alto being the resident princess of the series, it’s not a far stretch to say he certainly can act like one at times. Ranging from his daddy issues leading to him running away from home to become a pilot, or how he likes to ignore any real problems that he faces, there’s almost nothing about him that doesn’t scream “Princess”. He even has gorgeous flowing locks of hair to accentuate this. In fact, I have no doubt that some would start to question his manhood, as he practically ignores any advances from both Sheryl and Ranka, which goes back to him being largely at fault for the triangle never progressing. Any time it seems like he’s made up his mind about who he wants to be with, the next episode has some bad news for you, as he basically does the equivalent of saying “Just kidding!”, and begins to show what can be considered interest in the opposite girl. As for the whole “Princess” nickname and his daddy issues, they are touched on briefly, but it comes off as nothing more than the writers quickly throwing together some semblance of a back story so that they could pass him off as more than your average self-insert main character.
Having Alto bounce back and forth between who it seemed he was interested in clearly shows which characters are supposed to be the selling point of the series, and of course, I can only be talking about Ranka and Sheryl. Long winded fan boy name calling and debates aside for now, they both have their ups and downs as characters.
Ranka, who is easily the character who receives the most focus in the series, happens to be the one who receives the least development for all the time she spent on screen (Go figure). She manages to slowly get over her timid nature when it comes to singing, but only because of the encouragement Alto gives her throughout the series. Although this was good however, even with her having the most interaction with other characters and general screen time, she never developed a reason for singing past doing it for Alto’s affection. Due to the fact that the time spent on her was poorly utilized, her development was hindered in the long run. This is made especially apparent when you see that a few of the side characters have more motivation for their actions than she does. For the sheer amount of focus the series gave her character, seeing them do nothing with it past the first few episodes was disappointing to say the least.
Sheryl, on the other hand, plays a much more interesting role in the series. Many pass her off as “Bitchy”, “Overly arrogant” and many other demeaning terms from the moment she appears on screen, but she manages to easily become the best character in the cast. With her status established right from the beginning, it’s not unfitting for her to act much like she runs the place. Providing a stark contrast from Ranka, Sheryl is confident and domineering to an extent, yet still caring of others, shown by her attitude towards Ranka and Alto. She eventually softens up a bit, mostly due to her feelings for Alto since he doesn’t worship her like everyone else in the colonies. The struggle she goes through while falling from the top as Ranka took over is far more believable than anything Ranka or Alto went through. Having to cope with her fall from stardom, as well as her impending death due to a disease, she accepts these facts and still tries to move forward, doing the only thing she can do: sing. This made her far more endearing to the audience by the end of the series, as this shows her confidence wasn’t simply based on her status as the Galactic Fairy, but her strength of will that was built up through living her old lifestyle of complete poverty. While she did remain mostly static, what she went through didn’t feel contrived, much like the case was with Ranka.
But of course, like many other series, one of the biggest problems Macross Frontier presents is the ending. Again, I find myself questioning Alto’s sexuality, as the ending provides zero closure for what is considered the main focus of the series: the love triangle between the three main characters. This is Macross, the plot is only there to help move the romance forward, and that’s one thing Frontier severely failed at. Not only was Alto himself preventing it from taking a big step forward with his indecisiveness and constant character changes, the sheer amount of conveniences that kept the character’s relationships from developing sure didn’t help either. Like I mentioned, the filler episodes would mostly focus on the love triangle, but focusing on it is not the same as actually having it progress. Regardless of how much it actually progressed by the end, a conclusion is needed, and that’s something the series never provided. While it was very heavily suggested that Sheryl “won” before the finale, the final moments of the series throw the entirety of the few episodes Alto was together with Sheryl right out the window, and has Ranka enter the competition once more.
As we all know, Alto has a major fascination for the sky, more so than for the two girls who fawned over him for the entire series. So what does he do? He doesn’t clearly choose either girl, but instead chooses the mother fucking sky. Whether it was intentionally done this way so that the Sheryl and Ranka factions wouldn’t destroy the world due to a simultaneous outburst of angry fan boys crying over the fact that their waifu “lost”, or because they wanted to leave it up for interpretation, it doesn’t change the fact that giving no closure severely impacts the series in a bad way. And when one of the main selling points of the Macross franchise is left untouched, it leaves nothing more than disappointment in the eyes of fans and newcomers alike. While making no decision on which girl the main character wants to be with may be a common occurrence in most harem series, it should not be the case when there is only a love triangle at hand. When ample time is given to devote to two characters and their interactions with the main character, going down this route is nothing more than a bad decision as it should be nearly impossible to get fans to feel satisfied with this kind of ending. It was a shame to see them use this kind of cheap exit strategy after putting forth the effort to develop the relationships in the series.
After all of this, there’s nothing left but disappointment in the series. There may have been good j-pop, great action scenes, as well as throwbacks to previous entries in the franchise ranging from songs, to name drops and simple phrases, but that only adds to the enjoyment factor. And as most intelligent people will know, even that isn’t enough to save a series which continually makes mistakes along the way. At the end of the day, Macross Frontier had a lot of potential, but unfortunately it was ruined by Alto who could not manage to keep the series flying smoothly.
5: Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Second Season
English: Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Second Season
Japanese: 機動戦士ガンダム00 セカンドシーズン
MAL Score: 8.10
In the year 2311 AD, a world that once saw itself full of inter-continental conflict now stands unified, led by the Earth Sphere Federation (ESF). The ESF established a preventative military task force known as the A-Laws, tasking them with shutting down violent terrorist organizations. As they gain more and more legal authority, the A-Laws begin to twist the law to fit their own agenda, ruling the citizens of Earth with a heavy hand.
In response to the fascistic behavior of the A-Laws, the anti-terrorist group Celestial Being reappears. Led by state-of-the-art mobile suits known as Gundam, the pilots of Celestial Being wage a new war with the A-Laws, aiming to stop their tyrannical abuse of power.
Setsuna F. Seiei, pilot of the Gundam Exia, helps to lead the charge along with his fellow Gundam Meisters Lockon Stratos, Allelujah Haptism, and Tieria Erde. But in the process, Setsuna stumbles upon a conspiratorial plot spearheaded by a new faction, the Innovators, and must contend with his own old wounds and ghosts of the past in order to save a world that despises him.
Now, Season 2 started out with a lot of potential. The main characters were reintroduced very well, preserving the characteristics they were known for and refining them, along with offering a slightly different side of their personality. Some characters did change for the worse, but this is necessary to create the strife needed for the story to build. And it did build. A new faction came into play here, and some of the old characters on the antagonistic side in Season 1 are not happy with the new world order. New characters are introduced very well and immediately create a third side to the previous two-sided strife in Season 1. There are many characters that are struggling to find themselves in the new world order, so the series has a bit of a depressive feeling to it. Not even Lockon’s lighthearted comments helped much here.
However, as well as the introductions to the new characters were, the development of many of these characters had something to be desired. It falls into the same trap that swallowed Code Geass R2, which is to let new characters languish in development. However, while R2 introduces too many characters and has to shift back and forth awkwardly between the factions, Gundam 00 introduces fewer new characters and makes the shifts amongst them much more fluidly, going for “Let’s integrate all the factions into the episode” rather than Geass R2’s “focus here for one episode, focus there for another.” 00 also focuses on the protagonists much better. The antagonists (that fat blonde guy), along with Bushido, along with the Innovators, could have used more development, but at least I got a better idea of their true personalities better than the Knights from Geass R2. If there was one glaring complaint about 00 S2’s characterization, it would come in the form of antagonistic development in the form of the true mastermind, Ribbons Almark. An antagonist is supposed to create a feeling of hatred in your heart, or you fall for the antagonist’s plot and cheer on the protagonists’ failure. But the main feeling I get from Ribbons is ambivalence. “Your comrade just got killed.” *no emotion* “You just got betrayed.” *no emotion* “Your test subject just wrecked your newest Mobile Suit.” *no emotion* “Your plan to take over the world has caught a HUGE snare.” *Whatever* All he does is sit on a MAGENTA couch and twiddle on his thumbs, no matter if his plans succeed or fail. For someone who’s the mastermind, he doesn’t like to get involved much, like he’s a puppetmaster with really long strings on his puppets. Problem is, he feels disconnected from the plot and action, and well, let’s just say that 00 S2’s biggest fault after this is plot management.
Now, the first… 2/3 of the series was developed very well. We get to see the main characters discover a different side to themselves and we are able to supplement the change with what we know about the characters in season 1. But after that, the series starts to stumble. The audience is waiting for a return of aspects that distinguished the characters from season 1. In creating a different dimension for the characters, they gave up the platform built up for the characters in season 1. Like Hallelujah, whose reintroduction was too sudden. Welcome, but not well done. Thus, after about the 2/3 mark, the series starts to wander and lose its footing. The focus is on little plot elements that need time to develop, but the producers only had so many episodes of plot to work with. Thus, the big plot elements were placed on the back burner and left to overcook. The series has to rush to resolve these big issues, but didn’t get to do so until the last 3 episodes or so, so it was a miracle that episodes 23 and 24 didn’t feel too rushed. What would have been nice is if they started focusing on these big plot elements around… episode 20 or so? But it’s no big surprise that episode 25 felt like you were landing an airplane but hadn’t slowed down enough. You do stop, but all your passengers are thrown 2 rows forward in your attempt. The series was haphazardly wrapped up as a result.
But don’t get me wrong: Gundam 00 S2 is still worth your time to watch if you enjoyed S1. There’s still a lot to like, such as the more complex story, matured characters, and many characters just finding their true selves during their personal struggles. I’m not sure if I just expected too much, though. It’s still a likable series, but it just tossed away its potential for becoming a masterpiece about 2/3 of the way in.
(This review assumes familiarity with the first season of Gundam 00 and references several season one spoilers. Season two spoilers are hinted at but not explicitly stated.)
STORY – Gundam 00 had a precarious premise from the very beginning. The “war to end all wars” story is one that seems to be visited often, but because it’s such an idealistic goal, series pursuing it always stand on a shaky foundation of logic and realism. As a result, it’s a very difficult premise to execute well. One of biggest logical gaps for me is still the idea that Celestial Being’s two hundred-year old technology can be superior to that of current-day armies, especially since Celestial Being itself seems to have a very poor understanding of the machines they’re making use of. Instead, they are reliant on a supercomputer and the notes and secret power-ups passed down to them by a dead man. All of the questions I had from the first season surrounding the organization’s conception and survival over the last two centuries remain unanswered for the most part, but the most frustrating thing was not knowing the ultimate purpose of CB until the series’ finale.
It blows my mind that most of the characters didn’t even seem to know exactly what the “real” purpose of their organization was. It’s one thing to keep the audience in the dark, but seriously, even the characters didn’t know? Yes, everyone fights for their own reasons, but if you’re part of an organization, you should maybe know what they’re up to. Just sayin’. The antagonistic Innovators are introduced this season as the new puppeteers of the world, along with their half-puppets, the A-Laws. Presumably, they know what’s going on, but since the point of view of the story follows the members of Celestial Being more than the Innovators, the story becomes very reactionary. CB is trying to do this to stop the Innovators from doing this. CB does this because the Innovators are going to do this. But why should the audience care if they ultimately have no idea what anyone’s fighting for? The goals from the first season seem to have gone to the wayside somewhere along the way.
The flimsy storyline also contributed to an entire season of awful pacing marred by way too many romantic subplots. Seriously, could there possibly have been more of them? It didn’t take long for 00 to feel like one gigantic soap opera that just happens to take place in space with some kind of war going on in the background. In fact, I’d venture to say that the romantic storylines and drama were the main focus and the war, morals, and fate of the universe thing was the secondary subplot. Who will get Setsuna in the end? Marina or Gundam? Can Lyle save Anew from her overused mind-control plot device? Will Tieria ever be able to win Veda back from Ribbons? Will Allelujah ever actually do anything important in this series or say a word other than “Marie”? Will Saji ever stop being spineless, and will Louise eventually accept him again or just go to Andrei instead? Can Billy forgive Sumeragi for using him? Can Shirin and Klaus both survive to the end of the series for their happily ever after? Will Mr. Bushido ever give up on Setsuna? Will Patrick ever win Kati’s heart??
It. Is. Ridiculous. To be honest, most of the relationship drama (romantic or otherwise) in 00 had the potential to be interesting, but the fact that there was so much of it limited the relevance of each individual subplot and put a huge strain on the viewer’s ability to care, especially with an unclear central plotline to tie everything together. The conclusion of the second season and the series as a whole is just as bad as, if not worse than, the first season’s ending. It felt similarly rushed, extremely anticlimatic and unrealistic, and didn’t resolve nearly as much as I would have wanted. Many of the characters feel stranded at the end of the series, though you do get a resolution for most of the relationship nonsense, further supporting the idea that the relationships were the core of the series and that everything else was secondary. As far as the politics go, it was definitely more of a forced ending than a conclusion. A conclusion implies that things are actually concluded.
CHARACTER – With a few exceptions, most of the first season’s gigantic ensemble cast returned for the second season’s “four years later.” A new season really wasn’t necessary just for a timeskip, but it was still really nice being able to see Setsuna age. He’s the most interesting character in the entire series just because he matures so much as events unfold, and even as he doubts himself, his motivation, and purpose in the world, he never falls into the trap of the Jesus-kun Syndrome — when a character becomes a preachy moralfag and refuses to kill people, often accomplishing this by disabling mobile suits in battle instead of destroying them. That isn’t to say that having morals and a conscience makes for bad characters, but I find it refreshing when the morals and conscience can coincide with the resolve to fight and the knowledge that killing is sometimes necessary. Rather than instilling the pacifist streak in Setsuna, Sunrise made a good decision in having Marina around to balance things out. As irritating and useless as she was most of the time, I think she was necessary to round out the points of views in the series; that is to say, she was a good idea, just poorly executed.
Lyle, the new Lockon, felt like a huge cop-out from the beginning. Sunrise actually succeeded in killing a character! …But here’s his identical twin to replace him. Great. It didn’t help that they never utilized the “twin” or “brothers” aspect to the best of its potential, and Lyle’s logic failed on so many levels. He did not want to be compared to his brother, but essentially agreed to take over his brother’s previous identity when he joined Celestial Being by taking on his old codename, his Gundam, and his Haro. Lyle’s romantic subplot with Anew was one of the ones that had the most potential, and there was a lot of good acting as far as Lyle’s inner conflict and reactions went, but in the end, I don’t think his character evolved as much as it could have, and static characters remain uninteresting.
Allelujah was amazingly disappointing throughout the second season and pretty much drops off the map after episode seven. You wonder whether his role as a Gundam Meister actually makes him a “main character” or not since he dwindles to the point where he doesn’t even have any speaking roles for several episodes at a time. Since Hallelujah supposedly “died” for one reason or another, there wasn’t anything in the way of personal conflict. Instead, he spends the whole time chasing after Marie/Soma Peries. Unfortunately, Allelujah/Marie interactions are idealistic and boring while Allelujah/Soma interactions are repetitive and boring. Marie’s struggle with Soma and Soma’s struggle with belonging and revenge are interesting for many of the reasons the Allelujah/Hallelujah struggle was last season, but the character(s) could have stood well enough on their own without the obligatory romance/attention of Allelujah. Really, Allelujah probably brought them down by turning it into a cheesy would-be romance rather than the revenge/moral conflict it should have been.
Rounding out the Meisters, Tieria changed a lot between the first and second season. It would have been nice to be able to actually see that progress rather than just accepting that development had happened, but it’s still refreshing to see characters that actually grow and change, and Tieria does continue to mature. Throughout the second season Tieria struggles with the fact that he’s an Innovator and his role in both Celestial Being’s and the other Innovators’ goals. On the most basic level, it’s probably the most interesting of the Meisters’ conflicts, usurping even Setsuna, but poor execution, lack of attention, and being constantly thrown back by a dozen other subplots kept it from really succeeding, especially at the end.
As previously mentioned, there are probably two dozen other characters all with subplots of varying degrees of depth and relevance. Saji and Louise’s is especially prominent, but the themes of their relationship cover very little that one of the others doesn’t already, especially now that they’re both directly involved in the fighting and are no longer bystanders. Neither of them are particularly strong or interesting characters, and I still think that 00 would have been better off without them. It would have probably saved us about ten episodes of drama. There are also still an assload of characters aside from those listed above that make appearances at random, but aren’t actually relevant to anything anymore. Ali Al-Saachez will pop up again every seven or eight episodes. As will Nena Trinity, who really should have just died in the first season with her brothers. And as will Liu Mei Wang and Hong Long, who really do anything at all the entire season. All of the Innovators aside from Ribbons are pretty much interchangeable, and even Regene didn’t seem to mean much in the end.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – The animation in the second season remains slick, and the battles are all relatively fun to watch. I really missed the Gundam Exia’s design, though the 0, 00, 0-Riser, and 00-Riser are all pretty interesting as well. I didn’t think the Arios was much of an improvement over the Kyrios, though honestly, you don’t see Allelujah in action enough this season for his suit to really leave an impression on you. The GN Archer, which actually had a neat design, could have also been featured a lot more. Seravee and Seraphim also had a nice concept, but like the others, was ever over-shadowed by the 00 and 00-Riser. And the Cherudim? As with the Dynames, the prominence of the gigantic rifle made the rest of the suit less important, but even visually, the Cherudim was less to look at than the Dynames.
The updated character and costume designs did a lot of good, I think, and I’m fond of Setsuna’s older appearance. The only new characters that are introduced in the second season are the score of Innovators. They come in pairs with hilariously punny names like “Revive Revival,” “Anew Returner,” and “Bring Stabity.” They also come in a variety of colorful flavors! Way to make it easy to spot the plot devices hiding out in the army and in Celestial Being, guys. There had to have been a better way to illustrate the concept of a race superior to humans without making it ridiculously obvious, right? The ease at which it is to spot these characters also makes the montage at the end of the series open to a lot of debate, but I really just think Sunrise is trolling us at that point.
MUSIC – The music is probably what I ended up enjoying the most in this entire series. I didn’t much care for the second season’s first opening and ending themes, but chalk that up to my general indifference to UVERworld and Chiaki Ishikawa. Neither are terrible songs or particularly annoying — just not my thing, I suppose. The second opening and ending, on the other hand, are probably why I even bothered to sit through some of the later episodes since neither of the singles had released at the time. “Namida no Mukou” by stereophony actually took a while to warm up to me because I found the timing awkward in many parts, but I loved the vocalist’s voice and the energy in the song is just fantastic.
Meanwhile, I loved “trust you” by Yuna Ito pretty much immediately. I’d only listened to a few of Ito’s songs prior to that, but “trust you” just blew me away. The melody is beautiful and the steady tempo really carries it through. Furthermore, the accompanying animation was gorgeous and well-timed to fit with the music, and it left a wonderful contemplative feeling at the end of each episode — more than most of the episodes deserved. It was also a great follow-up the animation for the second ending of the first season, “Friends” by Stephanie. There are a few episodes that end with a brief a capella version of “trust you” that I found really unnecessary and awkward, but the song itself is great.Oddly enough though, I like the TV Cut much better than the full single.
Tommy heavenly6’s “Unlimited Sky” is used as an insert song for some of the later episodes, which was also pretty awesome. I adore Tomoko Kawase’s voice in general, but I always find her anime songs much more energetic and upbeat than her other work, and “Unlimited Sky” is no exception. It always made the battle scenes that much more exciting — a very needed extra when you’re having a hard time caring about the characters involved or the storyline at the time.
Lastly, the instrumental soundtrack for 00 seemed markedly improved in the second season. The leitmotifs are a bit more prominent and the music in general seemed to compliment the mood and feeling of each scene a lot better. It was really refreshing to see/hear something actually improve between the seasons.
VOICE ACTING – Average for the most part, though I suppose Shinichiro Miki gets special mention for some excellent acting involving a very emotional Lyle, and Noboru Sougetsu (Ribbons), for managing to not remind everyone of Amuro Ray, at least most of the time.
The dub is still pretty awful. The best of the dub cast is Brad Swaile as Setsuna and maybe Alex Zahara as Lyle; both are pretty average. The rest of the cast either sound painfully uninspired or just… the same. Half of the female characters in this series sound the same in the dub. It’s must be pretty bad when I’m offended at how poorly done the voices are for even characters I don’t care about (which, in 00, is most of them).
OVERALL – When I reviewed the first season of Gundam 00, my main complaints included the fact that they had more details than structure, that they didn’t bother to explain a lot of what I would consider to be important backstory, and that there were far, far too many characters, all of whom were trying too hard to be the focus. The lackluster ending to the first season didn’t lead me to have a lot of expectations for the second season, but I’m still rather disappointed that they managed to let all of their problems get worse rather than better. In the end, I only saw 00 through to the end for the sake of having seen it to the end, which is never a really good reason at all. Then again, maybe I only saw it through so I could eventually bitch about it here… which really isn’t that great of a reason either.
But Gundam 00 S2 is crappy as hell (aside from the good looks.. the production value was top notch).
I have to admit that I liked Gundam 00 S1 (except for the ending).
Gundam 00 S1 focused a lot on the plot/action and because of that, the character development got neglected.
But that didn’t matter, because even with the 1-dimensional characters, it was still an interesting and exciting mecha anime.
However in Gundam 00 S2, ‘they’ tried to ‘spice up’ the character development a bit.
They totally froze the storytelling and decided to focus (a lot more) on the characters.
But they failed miserably!!! The characters didn’t come ‘alive’ one bit!!!!
The result = crap.
Hell.. what annoyed me the most were the things that just didn’t make sense.
For example the ‘couple’: Louise and Saji.
Saji discovers something (very) important about Louise’s tragedy (spoiler?) and ‘every’ viewer knows Louise should know about this.
But for some reason whenever Saji meets Louise, he NEVER discloses this important information to Louise.
What we get instead is a lot of shit dialogue like: “Saji..” “Louise!” “Saji!!” “Louise!!”
The same with Setsuna.. awww .. I’m not even going to start with his “Orewah Gundammmuhhh” dialogues/monologues…
In short.. Gundam 00 S2.. was bad.. very bad.. compared to season 1..
The story became predictable, the (romantic) character development was crap, some unimportant characters died,
bad guys didn’t actually die in season 1, you get spammed with loads of new characters,
Ribbons ‘bitch-slaps’ female characters and they ‘endure’ it *cough*.. and so on…
But anyways .. loads of you brainwashed *Gundam-lovers* will probably love this show anyways..
So… enjoy the sequel you guys.. 😐
4: Mobile Suit Gundam 00
English: Mobile Suit Gundam 00
MAL Score: 8.13
In the distant future, mankind’s dependence on fossil fuels will lead to their complete depletion, an energy crisis unlike anything the world witnessed. Out of retaliation and fear, humanity began focusing at an alternative source of energy: solar power. Different nations have united together to form three major factions—the Union of Solar Energy and Free Nations, the Advanced European Union, and the Human Reform League. Each of these sectors has access to a solar power generator, which gives them limitless energy.
As a result, countries that were once dependent on the sale of fossil fuels are now plunged in poverty, leading to years of warfare and internal strife over the control of solar energy. Amid this chaos, an unknown paramilitary organization appeared identifying themselves as “Celestial Being,” aspire to end all warfare through armed intervention by using mysterious and technologically advanced Mobile Suits known as Gundams.
Mobile Suit Gundam 00 follows the story of Celestial Being’s Gundam Meisters Setsuna F. Seiei, Lockon Stratos, Allelujah Haptism, and Tieria Erde. These four dive into the devastating battle between the three superpowers to accomplish their goal of changing the world.
I haven’t seen any of the previous Gundams, I knew about them of course, but never actually sat down and watched them. Partly because 00 had a more sleek art style and partly because the instant contradictions within the plot and characters intrigued me.
This review may contain hints of spoilers, but nothing explicit and flat out.
STORY- The story is political, to say the least. Because this is the first season, there’s a lot of focus on why things are the way they are, the factions and their goals, observing them discuss, ect. I admit it’s a little hard to keep up with sometimes once you feel it start to drone on. Thankfully, it’s not that long, and just long enough to get the point across. What interested me the most was a point that was shown through the relationship between Setsuna and Marina. Celestial Being is trying to eradicate war, as they say, but they are fighting to do that. That itself is a huge contradiction, one that isn’t ignored by the characters themselves. Setsuna in particular I remember musing over it. Marina on the other hand seeks peace, creating a good-hearted light of hope in all of the violence. The whole thing is very realistic and that was a drawing point. This isn’t an alternate universe, this is a version of an imagined future.
ART- Again I’ll say it, the sleek art is what drew me the most to 00. I’d seen the previous gundams, but never watched them because the designs nor the style caught me. The character designs themselves are very nice. A crazy crayola crayon box, but nice. Mobile animations and designs were done very fluidly and detailed. If anything, it’s not an ugly show to watch at all. It’s not full of big eyed girls with moe attitudes, there’s a varied female design throughout. Same could be said for the males. While the girl designs feel more futuristic, the boys somehow feel more earthy to me. Still- that’s just me.
SOUND- No one’s tracked how many times I’ve raved about 00’s OP and EDs. They are the absolute best I’ve ever seen. The lyrics, the accompanying animation and the whole exhibition of it is produced beautifully. I’m one of those people who normally skip over OPs after so long and never really watch EDs, but every single time I watched both in 00. The soundtrack in itself isn’t very noticeable nor memorable, though that didn’t bother me much. I was too preoccupied with the OPs and EDs still, because I can’t imagine such a string of beauty throughout a whole anime season for anything other than 00.
CHARACTER- This is the point I have to strongly fight that bias. The hugest thing that kept me watching the series was the characters, who I found a relief from all the others that seem to be popping up. The relationships between them, the backgrounds… learning about the characters was a bit slow paced, but rewarding all the same. None of the meisters have had easy pasts. Allelujah finds himself fighting with a split personality from experimentation. Setsuna gained his cold and unaffectionate demeanor from his life as a child soldier. Tieria, an exceptionally mysterious character, isn’t what you’d call fully human. Then even the guy who would light up the room with his smile, Lockon, carried a hatred for terrorists within his heart that clouded his judgement.
All of them bond. All of them grow closer without saying anything. Lockon in particular is to thank for these growths, because he is truly the shining light of the show. The one who unites all the others, smiling to help them grow. It’s hard not to become attached to his magnetic personality, like him or hate him. Then there are the more minor parts of CB, including a socially awkward young girl who doesn’t know how to express herself to people and finds solace in robotics, an alcoholic strategic who never misses a chance to have a drink, a friendly young adult woman who, despite the dreariness she’s surrounded with, manages to keep an upbeat and sociable attitude.
And of course there are the antagonists, as well as everyone else. It’s quite a cast. The Trinity siblings I felt, didn’t get nearly enough screen time, being introduced more than ten episodes into the series, but they were dynamic. They shook up things wherever they went, and were nothing but a joy to see. Never dull. Nena Trinity, the youngest, does an excessively violent act late in the season that truly exhibits the sibling’s ruthlessness. The antagonists were intriguing, but they too, I wished had more screen time to really let the viewers get a better feel. All the relationships were so complicated- it made the two civilians, Saji and Louise, stand out like a sore thumb in the cast. Very fun comic relief and a chance to see what’s happening through a civilian’s point of view. Ultimately, while the two may not seem important, gradually they gain almost the most character development throughout the cast, surprisingly enough.
ENJOYMENT AND OVERALL- If you can sit through some politics, enjoy having your morals questioned and are willing to keep an open mind, it’s a fantastic series and I recommend it. As many have said- it’s an excellent gundam series to start off with.
The premise of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 focuses on the paramilitary organization/force known as Celestial Being, and their idealistic goal towards eradicating war through violence itself. Much like fighting fire with fire, the controversial goal of Celestial Being is embodied through mobile suits known as "Gundams" and their armed interventions.
Pitting a paramilitary force and its overpowered mobile suits against the world, you basically get a massive serving of shiny mech to mech action. Not exactly the most innovative. The story’s essentially set up so the show can have as many mobile suit battles as possible; and frankly, that isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s toppled with good characters and drama. It’s a decent story, but it’s lacking some of the military aspects that Gundam is known for.
Besides the main story, there’s also a subplot involving two characters named Saji and Louise. Their purpose is to basically show the viewer the civilian standpoint of Celestial Being’s fight against the world’s three superpowers. Which is probably the show’s only source of slight comic relief and lightheartedness.
Art and Animation
The character designs of the four main Meisters are all quite well done. Much like Gundam Wing, the main characters are all pretty boys. Besides the main characters, we also have our blonde antagonist Graham whose appearance all-around gives the vibe of an ace pilot. Female designs are also done very well, such as Marina, who, though young, gives off a very motherly appearance; a very important aspect regarding her role in the plot.
The Mecha designs of Gundam 00 is very unique in that they’re not rehashes of mobile suits from previous series. Gundam Exia (AKA the main main Gundam) offers a very simplistic and futuristic design; in fact, that goes to all the other mobile suit designs in this series. So unlike the Strike Freedom, the Gundams don’t have a million things on their backs and enemies don’t look overdone as if they were meant to sell model kits. The Mecha designs in 00 are, in my opinion, some of the best in the Gundam metaseries.
The animation in this series is absolutely stunning. You wouldn’t find a prettier anime on this planet. Gundam 00 contains some of the most fluid Mecha action I’ve ever seen. The likes only rivaled by another Sunrise mech, Code Geass R2. Everything in this series is animation gold, from the shading and facial expressions of characters to the GN drive emitting particles from the Gundams. It should be noted that there are some minor slip-ups, but they’re passable and like mentioned, minor.
The sound (speaking of music, not sound effects) in 00 is probably the weakest part of the entire series. This is one of the few things that its predecessor, SEED, is by far superior in. The soundtrack isn’t necessarily bad, it just doesn’t bring out the mood as effectively as it should. Though there are some great background music such as Fight, Counterattack, and Union.
The OP’s and ED’s on the otherhand are fantastic. Unlike SEED, new openings use different animation and things are actually MOVING and isn’t a slideshow of pictures.
The characters in Gundam 00 are.. interesting. Can’t say the score eight is definite as the second season hasn’t aired yet. But judging solely on the first season, the characters are all quite reserved if not emotionless. Setsuna, being the main character, has a very interesting if not bloody background to him. Tieria is mysterious and strict, Allelujah is a character struggling with his mind, and Lockon is easygoing and likable, though he harnesses a deep hatred towards terrorists.
Other characters include the Char-like ace pilot Graham, war-loving Ali Al Saachez, and Human Reform League veteran soldier Sergei Smirnov.
The cast in general is a good cast, the characters aren’t anything we haven’t seen in Gundam before, but maybe that’s a good thing.
It’s an enjoyable series, especially towards the end. The Mecha action will glue you to the screen, the characters will make you empathize, and old time Gundam fans will have fun comparing it to Wing and/or finding the Char clone. The show also carries the ‘Kill em all’ kind of ending done by Director Yoshiyuki Tomino, something UC fans may fancy.
Gundam 00 is by no means a deep show, it’s the Gundam you know and love, with the usual war themes and ideology; all wrapped up in HD goodness. For newcomers, Gundam 00 is a fantastic introduction to the franchise. All-around it’s a solid show. Gundam 00 proves once again how sitting in a cockpit while shouting out morals and personal philosophies is a win-win formula even after almost thirty years since its debut.
General impression, summary, and thoughts:
Story: B+ : A storyline you would expect from a mecha geared towards the Shounen demographic.
Art & Animation: A+ : Good interesting mecha and character designs, fluid mecha action.
Sound: B : Weak, forgettable.
Character: B+ : The characters are there, they get developed but overall it’s more plot-driven.
Overall: B+ : Another solid installment to the Gundam franchise, a promising ending setting up for the second season.
STORY – Sometimes, it’s easy to become jaded with the Gundam franchise; it’s always another war and another group of over-powered mechs piloted by super-capable teenagers. Each series seems to have its own unique set of deviations though, and that’s undoubtedly why the franchise has survived for as long as it has. In 00’s case, it’s interesting to note that there’s no clear-cut war between two factions. The world’s existing conflicts are a mix of terrorism, civil war, and totalitarian oppression. Though morals are still cited a lot, there’s no clear-cut definition of "good" or "evil," and our protagonists admit up front that they aren’t necessarily "good." Some of the politics are eerily similar to some real life current events, but it wasn’t clear enough to me whether they were actually trying to make a statement about something or whether it was mostly coincidence. There are also some religious and environmental messages tossed into the mix, but again, not sure if any of it was supposed to be legitimate commentary. If anything though, Sunrise plays good politics.
Our protagonists, the paramilitary organization Celestial Being, declares its purpose to be the eradication of all war, and it aims to do so by intervening with all armed conflicts with their over-powered Gundams… and that’s where the ground starts getting shaky. I never really thought the "war to end all wars" thing had much logic to it, but I can still enjoy a show with that sentiment at its core if the storytelling is all right and if events still seem to unfold logically. But Celestial Being was founded two hundred years prior to the events of the series, and all of their technology was developed then. And yet somehow, they are still mad over-powering against armies built on recent technology? Seriously? Realism does not compute. It’s frustrating that not a lot is ever said/explained/discovered about the organization’s origins throughout the course of the series, and I really don’t understand the need for 00 to be split into two seasons. I don’t buy that it’s just the four year timeskip because Gurren Lagann proved that you could have a hugely significant timeskip mid-series no problem.
For the record, I hated the ending of this first season. It goes along fine for a while, but then we get this supremely rushed-feeling, arbitrary, and cobbled-together series of events that seemed to serve little purpose beyond hitting some sort of end-point for the season. And the thing I hate the most about Sunrise? Faked character deaths. Zombie characters. They’re notorious for it, yes. No body means no death in Sunrise, but knowing this doesn’t make it any less infuriating every time they do it. The Zombie problem alone made me disinclined to care about the second season, especially since I felt like they could have legitimately ended the series at 25 episodes if they had cut out a thus far pointless subplot and replaced it with relevant information about Celestial Being. Oh, Sunrise…
CHARACTER – Ensemble casts always wrestle with the problem of underdeveloped characters, and this is especially problematic in 00. It took me a really long time (probably at least ten episodes, which is way too long) to get into the characters and to care about them, and even then, my interest was limited. Of the four pilots, Setsuna’s past is expanded upon the most, and I found it interesting the way the viewers’ perception of him changed the more we learned even though Setsuna himself doesn’t start to grow/change much until the near-end of the season. Allelujah’s character and past isn’t terribly inspired, but I think the acting really helped to garner audience sympathy to his case, and I liked the way his split personality was portrayed through reflections.
Lockon probably has the most terrible name pun ever (though H/Allelujah is pretty bad too), but I can live knowing that it’s only a code name. That aside, he was probably the most generic of the pilots. Easy-going, friendly, righteous, and all that. Nothing special…except that his Haro is probably the most ridiculously adorable incarnation of a Haro ever. I also really appreciated the fact that there was some age disparity between the pilots. Setsuna is sixteen. Lockon is twenty-four. Everyone isn’t a fifteen year-old kid! Oh, and Tieria? We never learn anything about Tieria, so I didn’t really care about him at all. Sure, there’s a whole ‘nother season to explain things in, but I shouldn’t need to wait that long to care. It’s always a problem if I don’t care about the characters.
The other characters… ugh, there are just too many of them, and I didn’t care about any of them. There were too many characters trying to play puppetmaster and making brief, unexplained appearances every few episodes, and none of them seem to have an interesting motivation or ambition. I am tired of characters trying to take over the world, and I’m sure you are too. Even Celestial Being’s founder felt like he was trying to force the world into something… Marina Ismail? She was generic to the point that I had no sympathy for her for that reason alone. Graham Akre? I don’t care about your vengeance-driving bullshit. Ali Al-Saachez? Don’t care. Super Soldier #1? Whatever. The worst of it was the gigantic subplot involving the civilian characters. Their scenes were awkwardly woven into the politics, morals, and action, and I was thoroughly annoyed with all of it. Most likely, this subplot will lead up to something that (might hopefully kind of) be relevant in the second season, but that’s too long of a build-up for me.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – The animation in 00 is pretty top notch. The mecha battles are slick, clean, and super entertaining to watch. The Gundam designs are fun and unique, and I’m especially fond of Exia (come on, anything with seven blades has to be badass). The other mech designs, as well as the battleship designs, are also pretty neat.
Unfortunately, I found the character designs to be a bit lacking. Aside from Tieria’s overt androgyny, I appreciated that they didn’t have crazy wild appearances, and it is neat that many of the characters are supposed to be of different nationalities, but in the end, it’s just supposing. If they never mentioned that Lockon is Irish, that Setsuna is Kurdish, that Saji is Japanese, you’d never know. Especially among the female characters, I felt like I’d seen them all before. Generic political figures, generic princesses, generic prettyboys. It didn’t help that I had a hard time distinguishing some characters from others for a good five or six episodes; blame it on my own crappy memory and incompetence, but even so.
MUSIC – Well, I’m pretty biased towards both opening themes for 00. As a L’Arc~en~Ciel fan, I loved "Daybreak’s Bell" long before I ever saw this series, and as I’m currently on a Tomoko Kawase kick thanks to Soul Eater’s second opening, I’ve come to really love "Ash Like Snow" as well. They’re both great songs though, and I always love when the lyrics feel relevant to the actual series. The end themes didn’t feel as exciting in contrast, but once again, it could just be my bias towards the two bands doing the openings. (Actually, I found the first end theme, "Wana," to be pretty annoying…)
The background music for the series pales in contrast to its theme songs, as well as previous Gundam series like SEED, and other Sunrise mecha series like Code Geass. Very few tracks stood out to me during the series; the few that did were generally battle themes, but even those were pretty subpar. It wasn’t terrible music, so it didn’t really take away from the experience, but I’m sure a lot of scenes would have been better had there been a more emotional or meaningful soundtrack.
VOICE ACTING – Pretty average for the most part. Allelujah has a very unique-sounding and emotional voice; I think that’s one of the reasons I warmed up to his character, and Setsuna was interesting in that he’s one of the first monotone-voiced characters that didn’t seriously annoy me. I appreciate the versatility of Miyano’s voice — it’s very easy to distinguish his many roles. Beyond that, none of the other characters really stood out to me. Nothing amazing, but each character had a voice that suited them perfectly well.
Edit; I saw one episode of the English dub (episode #11). Overall, it was pretty lulz-worthy. Tieria and Lockon both sound better than I expected, but they still feel awkward and unnatural, particularly Tieria, though I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that many of his lines are kind of corny. Setsuna didn’t have a very big role in the episode, but the few lines he did have also impressed me. Swalie’s voice is much more versatile than I thought. Cox on the other hand… Allelujah sounds terrible. The voice doesn’t suit him at all and really made him seem like an entirely different character. Hallelujah is passable, but Allelujah fails utterly. Much of the secondary cast feels just as awkward, sadly: both Graham Akre and Billy Katagiri are very lulzy; Feldt and Marina are super generic, as are Col. Smirnoff and Soma; Sumeragi is actually pretty okay, but it can’t be hard to sound "okay" when everyone else is just so… wtf. I don’t think I’ll be watching any more of the dub. The "sound" score component is not affected by the dub.
OVERALL – I think this review might have turned out a bit more negative than I intended just because I’m still annoyed with the season’s ending. You might wonder what I actually liked about 00. Well, I enjoyed the story and main conflict for the most part. It’s always good to see a blurring of good and evil, especially when characters try so hard to convince themselves that they’re doing the right thing. If I could score this series somewhere between a 7 and an 8, I would. 7 feels a bit harsh, but 8 feels too generous. I think 00’s main problem is just that there are too many little details to the plot and few of them are explained properly; similarly, there are too many characters, and none of them get the attention they deserve. The intense build-up for the second season leaves this first season pretty void of substance, which is really disappointing. If you’re going to divide up your forces, divide them evenly, huh?
I’ll see how this second season goes though, but Zombie characters isn’t a really great place to start if you ask me.
MAL Score: 8.16
In a world where memories exist in memory chips separate from the body, death of the body no longer means death of the soul. It is possible for memories to be viewed, altered, and transferred between bodies. These memory chips are used by the rich to obtain eternal lives in carefully selected bodies, while for the poor, selling their own bodies and conserving their souls in the chips often become the only way to earn a living. An electrolytic cloud in the sky serves as a barrier between the heavens of the fortunate and the underworld of the destitute, making this social division impregnable.
One day, a man named Kaiba wakes up in an empty room with no memories, a mysterious hole in his chest, and a locket holding the picture of an unknown woman. After escaping an attack and stumbling upon a decrepit village of underworld residents, he begins his adventure across the different planets of this strange universe to find out more about his own identity and the woman he once knew.
Through a journey of self-discovery and acceptance, Kaiba weaves together tales of souls and spirits and explores the importance of memories.
Story: 9 (Great amnesia story, love the sci-fi elements)
Art: 10 ("I DO" yelled Sam, "I do like green eggs and ham!")
Sound: 7 (overly silent at times, but dialog helps lot)
Character: 9 (So simple yet very complex, a must see)
Enjoyment: 10 (Felt like a 3-hour summer blockbuster movie)
Overall: 45/50 = 9 (Everyone must experience this)
People always try to be above others. It’s because they can’t be happy unless they have people below them. This show creates a whole universe around this concept and other unconventional ideals. From the anime description and genre choices for this show, and even the database picture the normal anime viewer might be a little turned off from this show. At first glance for me I quickly turned it away as I thought it was aimed toward children. Despite showing an R+ rating I also notice ratings are usually 20% correct in the MAL database.
But after pushing it aside for about two weeks, I finally decided to give it a shot and boy will you be surprised. Right off the start, you’re heart will start racing as you follow the story of the main character. A after waking up from a daze, blade runner ‘esque chase quickly follows. After the action, the main character appears to be very lost, which I’m sure most of you will feel the same way he does. This also starts a unique connection and experience between the viewer and the main character. This is where the show really starts.
One thing I’m sure most people will notice is the art style. You will either love it or hate it but don’t let the artwork turn you away from this show. After an episode or two you will most likely appreciate the level of originality this art style brings to the plate. After i have seen over 100+ series in a three month span, this was a very welcome change to the orthodox anime styles. Dont let the simple look fool you as well, there are more than enough small details to pay attention to throughout. From the tiny memory pellets to an overcrowded storage room. Everything looks very thought out and amazing. Often you’ll probably think to yourself, how the hell does Misaaki and Nobutaka make this ***t up?
Another false assumption was that the characters were mostly children since they have a simple child like look to them. But they are very much mature adults. The characters are are all so very likable and I owe a lot of that to the art style and the small details that they do or don’t leave out. The even greater point is how Masaaki Yuasa goes to great depths to control the viewers emotions with the use of these characters. One minute, you’ll hate a character, then the next you’ll feel sorry for them, then you’ll feel frustrated because this is almost an emotional roller coaster. Rest assured, this is a good kind of frustration (if there is such a thing).
Defintiely "don’t judge this book by its cover." This point of view story was rather an interesting one and the science, technology, and hierarchy surrounding this universe was very captivating experience. There are quite a large number of allusions and ideals in every episode that got me reflecting on what I have just experienced (which I absolutely love). I can’t really compare this to any other anime show. If i had to compare the story to something, it like a telling of a blade runner/ matrix story in the eyes of Dr. Seuss.
A great way to close this epic show would be a quote from Dr. Seuss’ Yertle the Turtle:
"You hush your mouth!" Howled the Mighty King Yertle.
"You have no right to talk to the world’s highest turtle.
"I rule from the clouds, over land, over sea!
There is no nothing, NOTHING, that’s higher than me!"
Like any other cyberpunk and dystopian anime it is apparent from the inception that it is a society that has been totally dehumanized. In this case, to handheld chips and yellow blobs. Bodies are thrown away like old clothing and replaced on mere whims. Human life and emotion is “seemingly” disregarded. Which is generally the most common criticism, and maybe even point, of these genres. They lack any real empathy and it is understandable that this can deter viewers from the genre. However, this is where Kaiba truly shines. Kaiba puts the futuristic technology into a more human context and is the reason why I emphasize the word seemingly. It is an empathetic cyberpunk, that is to say, that characters express true emotions and warmth. Which is something these series generally lack (for better or for worse? that’s each person’s decision). It shows this empathy whilst at the same time, it is able to show the total loss of human value. To be able to show both polar opposites of this spectrum without one impacting the other is a true testament to how well done this series is.
The empathy is shown in many cases throughout the series, such as maternal bonds, but most notably through the two main characters that, despite not remembering each other, and being in totally different bodies, they are still drawn together and attracted to one another. It also shows the sacrifices one is willing to take to stay with their loved ones and no amount of deceit and lies will stand between characters coming together. And at heart, this really is a series about human longing and romance.
Similarly, the OST completely compliments and helps illustrate both the dystopian nature of the world in which Kaiba is set and also its warm empathetic side. Most notably two pieces: the Melody of Clonico and The Tree Song. The Melody of Clonico (episode 3) really serves to illustrate the empathetic side of the series. The Tree Song holds magnificent symbolism in both a literal and metaphorical sense, and it is no surprise why this song is teased throughout the entire series becoming its ‘staple’ piece. While this may not be relevant to some, it is something I can wholeheartedly appreciate. This song illustrates the entire series as a whole in more than one way.
Kaiba’s characters are fantastic for the most part. A large portion of the series can be considered episodic, meaning, Kaiba travels from one place to another and in doing so meets characters along the way that don’t stay relevant for very long but they do what’s required of them and are well developed enough in most cases that you genuinely care about them and what happens to them. Kaiba is a very interesting and mysterious character that at the beginning, the viewer knows as much (or as little) as Kaiba himself, who has lost his memories. As the series progresses Kaiba – and the viewer – learn more about his past which made it a very engaging experience as he slowly becomes more aware of the girl in his locket. That girl being Neiro. Neiro is also a very interesting character, who, without spoiling much, has issues of her own in regards to her memories. The most rewarding thing about the characters, namely Kaiba – but also others – is that his genuine interactions with other characters within the series brings a sense of warmth to an otherwise, overly cold and dark society.
The art is a love or hate relationship. It is far from mainstream and maybe even pretentious. There’s not much to say about that, the animation is still fluid, the characters are still well designed and the world they find themselves in is equally well designed. I personally found it to be one of the series greatest strengths and made it an even more rewarding watch.
Kaiba is a bag of mixed emotions, on one hand it is incredibly sad to watch as human life is literally thrown away and treated like garbage, but on the other hand it is beautifully warm to see individuals stop at nothing to preserve this life and connect with their loved ones. It left me not knowing what to feel at times and I can only say that as absolute praise for the series. I am not saying this series is for everyone, it is totally understandable that if you’re not a fan of cyberpunk/dystopian anime this may not be for you, but if you don’t like these genres for the lack of empathy they portray, this may pleasantly surprise you. There are other reasons why this isn’t for everyone, most notably, its art which as I said, is far from the mainstream. It may not be an easy watch for some, especially given the cyberpunk/dystopian tropes it has, but it is something I loved wholeheartedly.
Thanks for taking the time to read.
It is true that this type of story has not been done before. One that deals with the concept of minds and how it’s our self, but with Kaiba, it’s like a journey you go through with our main hero, named Kaiba. He meets different characters from his trip that all have distinct characteristics that make them stick out from the rest, who may or may not help him in his search to find his memories that have been lost after his long slumber. As we follow our likable hero, we discover how the world that Kaiba inhabits has begun to crumble under its dystopia. Although they portray the setting in a surrealist manner to give it a distinctive look, there’s still the lack of any depth to the world itself. In other words, there’s not enough to go around from the lack of exposition it gives to the history of this world that Kaiba has to offer, and it only succeeds halfheartedly.
With that said, even though the plot features some mind-bending, philosophical facets that incorporate Kaiba, the story-telling that helps guide them through the narrative is somewhat lacking. Nonetheless, when the show starts, it manages to make an excellent first impression in showing us first-hand what the world is like and how the other people who live in it go through the absolute turmoil that plagues their way of life. Some moments were even strong enough to invoke tears from my eyes. However, it doesn’t take long until we cut away from the protagonist and then start going into the character back story of another named Chroniko. To explain this clearly, Kaiba implants his memories into Chroniko, and from then on we get to explore Chroniko’s past and how she was brought up into the world. While this might seem admirable to make us know that there are, in fact, more than just Kaiba that might matter, I feel as though it wasn’t even needed in the first place when we already have to follow Kaiba and his journey to get his memories back, even though technically he’s inside of Chroniko in these scenes.
Furthermore, we follow other characters such as the sheriff, named Vanilla, and his fascination with Chroniko, or in this case, the body that Kaiba inhabits. This plays off more like a desperate attempt to make the show longer. After that, we discourage entirely that whole moment that involved both of those characters, and we follow Kaiba like nothing ever happened previously. One could say that those plot arcs were necessary for Kaiba to understand the meaning of human emotion and the human condition, but it comes across as a bit trite and forgettable once the next episode rolls in.
Although with that said, the conclusion to the story felt incredibly fulfilling to experience after a brilliant romantic setup between Kaiba and Neiro, who play off each other very well. Their immediate feelings for each other might seem a little cliched, but how they direct the dialogue they say to each other comes off rather fluently and feels genuine. Right near the very last frame of the previous episode, it felt like the best way to give Kaiba a sense of closure.
By far the most alluring aspect of Kaiba that has made it somewhat of an indistinguishable show amongst the anime community is the art and animation. Directed by Masaaki Yuasa, who also directed the classic The Tatami Galaxy and directed the animation and wrote the surrealist film Cat Soup, this man knows his way of transforming his visions into reality and making us clamor for more of his artistic creativity. Kaiba’s hook from its animation relies not just on an unconventional art style, but also its seamless implementation to the story and tone it tries to convey to us. Once we see the art style which Yuasa executes on constructing Kaiba’s world, the result is no less than jaw-dropping. In some areas, it might seem even a little forceful in the attempts of making things a little too wacky and cartoony, the moments where it shows how people can invade someone’s memories look incredible at face value.
The fluid motions that the characters exhibit in the show’s animation feel reminiscent of western-influence and the works of the great Osamu Tezuka. The abstract shapes of the buildings and vehicles give the show its unique identity and ultimately becomes very memorable in that aspect. There is about as much creativity as one could get from a studio named Madhouse, who’s no stranger to producing shows similar in nature of Kaiba.
On the overall quality of the sound production, the voice acting is serviceable with the veteran voice actresses Romi Park and Mamiko Noto giving out terrific performances. Even with the limited amount of dialogue that the character Kaiba has throughout the story, Houko Kuwashima plays out the amnesiac archetype rather convincingly. Her voice emotes perfectly as an unemotional character who has lost all sense of meaning in his life because of how memories play a huge role to him and how that was perpetually lost. One thing to note in music is the opening song for Kaiba which is composed quite beautifully from the sublime electronic ambiance mixed with subtle orchestration. On top of that is the beautiful voice of Seira Kagami, giving a dazzling performance that sets a tone of pure melancholic loneliness, one of the main themes of the entirety of Kaiba.
There’s nothing quite like Kaiba’s style and finesse to be found in most anime shows. I say style as in the animation, which is the only significant aspect of the show that makes it worth watching, but that’s not to say that the story is terrible by any means. There’s more to be seen in Kaiba than just the art and animation; but if it was only focused a little more tightly and given more world-building for it to be memorable, this would’ve been ranked higher. There is no doubt people will be looking at the art style and start thinking it’s nothing like anime they’re used to and reject it immediately. Distinctive qualities are a rarity these days, and I’m perfectly fine with this. No doubt we need more creative measures put into the medium, but when one show comes out in that one particular season that puts a lot of effort into its aesthetic qualities that challenge the norm, then that makes that one show all the more special.
2: Aria the Origination
English: Aria the Origination
Japanese: ARIA The ORIGINATION
MAL Score: 8.51
In the 24th century on the planet Aqua, three girls—Akari Mizunashi, Alice Carroll, and Aika S. Granzchesta—continue to work hard toward achieving their goal of becoming Prima Undines: professional tour guide gondoliers. Luckily, the girls have the guidance of the three best Prima Undines in Neo-Venezia—Alicia Florence, Athena Glory, and Akira E. Ferrari—who are known as the “Water Fairies” in honor of their skill. With their help, the young apprentices train hard and work to overcome any situations that they find themselves in.
Aria The Origination follows the hardships and daily lives of these three young girls, who are doing their best to improve as tour gondoliers in Neo-Venezia, a terraformed replica of Venice.
The story continues in much the same fashion as the first two series, dealing as it does with the daily lives of Akari, Aika and Alice and their efforts to become Prima Undines, however the biggest difference is that the characters are not only developed more in Origination, but developed well.
One of the main strengths of the Aria series as a whole is the effortless manner in which it tells its various stories, and Origination is the pinnacle of this. The plot in each episode is far more fluid than in the previous two series, and as the show progresses the story moves into a barely unnoticeable higher gear as the bittersweet climax approaches.
There are two things which make the story in Origination noticeably different from the first two series. The first, and most obvious difference, is the fact that Origination has a goal in mind, and unlike the previous two offerings, doesn’t simply peter out towards the end but actually gains momentum. The second difference is surprisingly (and somewhat unfortunately), unrealised by many, however it is key to appreciating the franchise in its entirety.
As I stated in my review of the second series, The Animation was simply an introduction to the characters and Neo Venezia, whilst The Natural was an introduction to the world of Aqua. This is important to know as many people misjudge the first two series and believe they have no real focus. In fact they do, and without that focus Origination would never have been as good as it is. If one keeps in mind that the whole point of The Animation is not to develop the characters, but simply to introduce them, then it makes things a little clearer as to why it was structured in such a way. The same goes for The Natural, as the focus there was to familiarise the viewer with the world of Aqua, and its wonders and oddities. The characters receive some measure of development in the second series, however this is not the main focus of the show, as it is essential for the viewer, when watching the final series, to have more than a passing familiarity with the characters and their environs.
This is where Origination steps in. From the outset the assumption is that one is familiar with the characters, Neo Venezia, and the world of Aqua, and because of this Origination can proceed with the story proper without the need for introductions, supernatural events, exploration, etc. Everything up until that point was simply preparation, which at first may seem wasteful, but watching the first and second season is a pleasant experience so one could fairly state that the effort was justified to a degree.
The art and animation in Origination is much the same as the first two outings. There isn’t any real change to the design of the characters, or to Neo Venezia and Aqua, although it should be pointed out that Origination has more in common with the first season in terms of art and backgrounds as it is mainly centred in Neo Venezia as well. The quality of animation remains superb, with no real noticeable flaws, whilst the level of detail in both the animation and the artwork is once again excellent.
One of the strongest areas for the series as a whole is in the quality of its sound and music, and whilst the first two series were excellent in this department, Origination represents a step up. The subtlety and detail of some of the effects are truly phenomenal, and although the thematic music may be the same as the previous two series, the score actually feels fresh in Origination (more on this in a bit). The voice actors are, once more, excellent, however there is a very subtle difference with their portrayals in Origination in that the characters seem more self-assured than in either of the previous two series.
Characters are as adorable as ever, but once again there is a difference to them. The feeling of self assurance one receives from the voice actors is carried through with the actions of the characters themselves, and this is one of the ways in which they receive some of their phenomenal development. This doesn’t simply apply to Akari, Aika and Alice either, but is also extended to Alicia, Akira, Athena, Akatsuki, Al, and even Grandma Akino.
The surprising thing about Origination’s characters is that, in comparison to The Natural, they possess and air that is fresh and new. This feeling is also inherent in the score (as I mentioned earlier), in the settings, and in the voices too. There is a very simple reason for this though. Whilst it may (or may not), be true that the viewers are already familiar with the series before watching Origination, it is a certainty that everyone who has worked on it will know the characters, Neo Venezia and Aqua, pretty much inside out. This, together with the fact that Origination actually has a focus and a definite end, means that everything was already defined before the series even began. It is because of this that Origination is able to achieve its remarkable feat of plot and character development, something it could never have done had everything been told over the course of one season.
In terms of enjoyment, Origination is something I would recommend to everyone, however it should be remembered that the first two series should be watched prior to this. The show is as relaxing as The Animation, whilst retaining the same adventurous quality of The Natural. The characters actually become more endearing as the show progresses, especially if one has watched seasons 1 and 2, and whilst the format may still be episodic, it doesn’t suffer from the same ambiguity that affected the previous two series.
Origination is an excellent show that successfully retains the essence of the series whilst at the same time developing the characters and advancing the plot. Because of the definite focus of the show, things that may have seemed stale in The Natural have been given a new lease of life and, whilst this may not seem like a difficult thing to achieve, it is actually one of the hardest things to do in any medium.
All good things must end.
Man, I hate that saying. I hate it for how true it is. Kozue Amano, why couldn’t you keep it going? Did you run out of ideas? Was five and a half years enough? Did you already plan this out? Wait, what am I saying? Of course you planned it out. Month after month, you crafted chapter after chapter of this masterpiece.
Jyunichi Sato, thank you for taking this work and running with it. For three separate seasons, each one improving on the last, you dealt the manga justice. You even added a new character that Kozue retconned into the story. And she was fabulous.
I should probably stop the ranting and the gratitude-giving and get to the review. Although this is under Aria the Origination, this will be a review of all three seasons plus the OAV.
Aria is a bloody masterpiece.
Yes, you heard me right. "All 10’s will make you untrustworthy and prejudiced, and people won’t pay attention to your reviews anymore!" Blah blah blah, whatever. I don’t care if no one ever reads my reviews again. ARIA is that good. I savored each and every episode of the anime, along with each and every chapter of the manga. Whenever I watch ARIA, I have this stupid grin on my face. I can’t help it.
So why is Aria that good?
One, the magic of the characters. You start off with Akari, the cheery protagonist, arriving on Aqua (used to be Mars) to fulfill her dream of becoming a master gondolier, an Undine. There, she meets her mentor, the perfect Alicia, who teachs Akari the ins and outs of the trade. Along the way, Akari befriends Aika, the heir to one of the biggest gondolier companies on the planet, Himeya. She also befriends Alice, the genius gondolier from Orange Planet. Aika also has a mentor, the ever-so-awesome Akira. Alice’s mentor is the ever-so-clumsy Athena. Akari also meets Akatsuki, the apprentice Salamander who controls Aqua’s climate, Albert, the Gnome who controls Aqua’s gravity, and Woody, the Sylph who makes deliveries by aircraft. Akari also meets Akino, the mentor of Alicia, and Ai, a girl from Manhome (Earth). Yes, all of the characters have names that start with A with the exception of Woody, but there is never a time when you are confused between who’s who. Character introductions and development are handled impeccably well.
Two, the complete lack of an overarching plot. Yep. Every episode is basically a one-shot, providing a glimpse at the utopian society of Neo-Venezia. Some episodes are character driven, while others are setting-driven. There are no antagonists, no final boss fight, and no conflicts. Therein lies the terms "healing anime" and "slice-of-life," which both describe this show perfectly. Now, that does not mean that ARIA fails to invoke emotion. Some episodes will make you cry manly tears. Some episodes will make you laugh out loud. ARIA is a show that you can sit back and watch every night before you go to bed. It improves the quality of your sleep. I guarantee it.
Three, the progression of the animation throughout seasons improves leaps and bounds. I’ll admit that some scenes were full of QUALITY, but by Origination, there is none of that. Origination is even in widescreen, giving everything a more epic sense. I loved the water animation, the chibi faces, the epic gondolier rowing, everything.
ARIA has something for everyone. Lesbian tendencies? Oh yes. Epic boat rowing? Even more yes. Heartwarming just to the point of sappiness? Triple yes. And there are much, much more: a soothing soundtrack, amazing vocal insert songs, fabulous opening and endings. The sound production is just perfect. The openings are different for each episode too, allowing you to immerse yourself into each episode seamlessly.
I cannot pinpoint a favorite episode, but I loved the 11th episode of the first season, when Akari waves to Aika and Alice from the bridge. I also loved the snowball episode, the four-leaf clover episode, and the well episode. My favorite character is Akira, by far. Her spunkiness and her awesome chibi-face won me over.
But alas, all good things do come to an end. As I sit and watch the final episode of Origination again, I cannot help but close my eyes and feel them tearing up. I’ll miss each and every character immensely.
Good work, Kozue Amano. Good job, Jyunichi Sato. I salute you for making me sleep better at night these last five and a half years.
Sit back and enjoy.
A.D. 2301 – The Voyage from Neo-Venezia.
This is what I’ve been looking for all along. This is the reason why I have been spending countless hours experiencing many different stories, encompassing so many different themes while simultaneously being sucked into an abundance of worlds. There is a saying that goes as such: “A good life is a collection of happy moments”. This is exactly what this anime was to me. It taught me, along with many others, to appreciate life, and how incredible it truly is.
The third and final season of Aria didn’t try to impress its audience from the get-go. Instead it allowed the viewers to try and envision what the outcome might be, however obvious it was from early on in the franchise. I even found myself in the first couple of episodes of this season scratching my head, wondering why people were giving the show as much praise as it frequently gets; as the opening episodes were not as flashy as I expected them to be. I almost got the impression that I was re-watching the first season: Aria the Animation. I felt as if this season was a bit of a back-step; lowering itself in terms of storytelling from the brilliant Aria the Natural. Don’t be afraid, however, if you find yourself feeling the same way after watching the first couple episodes. It is certainly not like that the whole through. I can assure you. Don’t get me wrong, the first two or three episodes were still pretty good, just not as ‘special’ as I thought they would be.
Origination focuses much more purely in being a undine in Aqua. Unlike Natural, which focuses more in the city of Neo Venezia, and all the supernatural beings which inhabit it, the final season shines its spotlight on the act of being a gondolier. We see more prospect in how our three young undines go by their day-to-day life, rowing their gondola, and their struggles and efforts to finally becoming a prima. Earlier on I mentioned that it is quite evident what will happen by the end of the series, and by that I meant that it will end with Akari, Alice, and Aika being prima undines. If this was to end otherwise, it would be unsatisfactory, and almost a dreadful ‘read the manga’ ending, that would ultimately be a massive spit in the face to the viewer. Heck there are even pictures of the show, which illustrate our three undines, without their signature gloves: this obviously meaning that they have become primas. Regardless, I assure you that the show ends almost perfectly, as it left a wide, almost creepy smile across my face, for the entirety of the final several episodes. Aria the origination was brilliantly directed, as we dive into the fantastical world that is Aqua, in all its glory.
The pacing of the show is as well truly extraordinary. There is a very correct balance between comical moments, and more heart-tugging moments, with each individual episode ending with Ai-chan’s unbearably cute voice. Of course the setting is still on-point, as Neo Venezia is almost as if its an exact replica of Venice. Each building feels real, the sea and the chilling breeze when a character stares into the ocean, reaches the viewer, as I often felt chills down my spine. Thus the city is given life, just like how Akari explains almost every episode.
I have not once been left disappointed by the fluidity, background depth and detail, character designs and color palette, but instead I am left in awe by how brilliantly done they all are. The final season of Aria, as expected, does not disappoint. In matter of fact, it is even more spectacular. There were times that I felt as if I as watching a movie by the sheer magnificence of the show visually. One aspect of the art that really surprised my how by the use of 3D in this season. You can tell just how much effort was put into this anime! Another example of how much the animation/art quality improved in this season, was the detail of each character’s faces, or more specifically their eyes. Any scene which took place on the Hope Hill (the green hill with all the wind turbines), looked almost godly. The only minor irritation I had with this aspect was that there were a few too many (albeit hilarious) chibi scenes. Although these helped tone down the show, I feel as if it would have been better without as many as there were. The reason why I included that comment in this section, is since such scenes tended to be more lackluster in animation (as one would expect). Overall, however, I am utterly pleased with this aspect of the show.
If you go ask anyone who has watched the entirety of Aria, what their favorite aspect of the show was, 9/10 times it would be the soundtrack.Why, do you ask? Well it was through this show that I found out that one could orgasm through longitudinal waves! (nerdy joke) But on a more serious note; the mixture between orchestra, piano, and violin was masterful, and each track was played at the perfect moment! If this aspect was not how it was, the ending result would be no where near as impactful as it is. This might be an obvious statement, but Aria the Origination heavily relied on its soundtrack to guide the tone of the show. And without guidance, you have a badly paced series. Something I should truly praise the show for is its seiyuu performances. Each and every seiyuu was perfect: especially Akari’s voice actress: she reflected Akari’s character flawlessly, as being a constantly happy and optimistic girl; a role which I believe to be exceedingly difficult to master. The ending song was one of the greatest things I have ever experienced: both visually, and sound-wise. It fat the tone of the show quintessentially! The opening was as well great, although not as memorable.There’s not much I can say to bash this section, as the show did almost everything right, in my opinion.
A problem that I tend to have with shows that have a very limited cast, is that there is not enough variety through their emotions, in order to truly satisfy my needs as a viewer. However, Aria is a show that turns this speculation upside down. Each and every character is fully developed, three-dimensional, and human. They are realistic, and although they are happy most of the times, there is more behind that smile than one would think. Akari Mizunashi is a great example of this. She is described as a quote on quote “Eternal optimist” or “Miss expect of happiness” and there is a valid reason for this. It is rare to see this character feeling down or depressed. At first I found this trope pretty unrealistic, but especially with Origination I was proven very wrong. She expresses so much emotion just by her intelligent analogies and ‘speeches’ about how important life is to those who respect their lives. She is very important to the story, as her character makes the entire city feel happy and content. She helps her friends when they feel down, and she even tries her utmost when she herself feels as if she cannot mirror her title. Alicia Florence is another fantastic character: she does not go about explaining her reasoning like any other human. Instead, she will go about her explanation in a very peculiar way. She might start rolling a snowball out of nowhere just to prove a point! I realise that this sounds silly, but I was utterly amused by how accurate those actions were to help explain her points. She, like Akari, is more often than not, always wearing a smile. This helps Akari keep her own smile, so that she could be able to illustrate her talent as an undine.
Alice Carroll is my personal favorite character ( plus my new waifu but that’s besides the point). The reason why this is so, is since she is probably the most logical, intelligent, and talented undine out of all the cast, at such a young age. She is almost inspiring as a character: not only to those in the anime, but to the viewer him/herself. I particularly love how she has an O.C.D, as she has to, for example, kick a stone all the way home one day, or another she will have to walk backwards, or walk only in shadows. This makes her character more realistic, as it demonstrates her more childish side, since shes only 14. *Small Spoiler* She also has an impeccable singing voice which came to my surprise.
The rest if the cast, which I could talk about for eternities, is all fully fledged out, and as i mentioned before, realistic. The only issue I had is that I wanted a bit more backstory for other characters, but that’s only a small problem, which wouldn’t really affect the show too much. An honorable mention is Grandma, who had a brilliant backstory, and was a fantastic addition to the cast, even though it was seldom that she appeared in the show. But I digress, since the characters were all pretty much perfect; even the secondary characters such as the Patissiere and Akatsuki.
I don’t think there is any other slice of life series that could provide as much enjoyment as this one did. Almost every single episode left me teary-eyed. Episode 9 was one of the greatest episodes I have seen in a LONG time. It was surprising, beautiful and incredibly well animated. That is not to say that it was miles ahead of any other episode, as they were all important to the story, which ultimately lead to the magnificent and conclusive ending, which could not have satisfied me more than it did. All I can say is Bravo! What an accomplishment this show truly was.
If only this series gained more mainstream recognition. It truly, truly deserves a wider audience, even though it is not, of course, perfect. But then again, no show ever is. Sayonara Akari, Alice, Alicia, Aika, Athena, Akira, and Aria. It was a fantastic run. Cheers!
Story – [Score: 9]
Characters – [Score: 9]
Art/Animation – [Score: 9]
Sound – [Score: 10]
Enjoyment – [Score: 9]
[Final Score: 9.4/10]
Final Comment: A legendary slice of life series, that should be enjoyed by many, if not all anime fans.
1: Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch R2
English: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2
Japanese: コードギアス 反逆のルルーシュ 続編
MAL Score: 8.91
One year has passed since the Black Rebellion, a failed uprising against the Holy Britannian Empire led by the masked vigilante Zero, who is now missing. At a loss without their revolutionary leader, Area 11’s resistance group—the Black Knights—find themselves too powerless to combat the brutality inflicted upon the Elevens by Britannia, which has increased significantly in order to crush any hope of a future revolt.
Lelouch Lamperouge, having lost all memory of his double life, is living peacefully alongside his friends as a high school student at Ashford Academy. His former partner C.C., unable to accept this turn of events, takes it upon herself to remind him of his past purpose, hoping that the mastermind Zero will rise once again to finish what he started, in this thrilling conclusion to the series.
Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch R2 is both more of the same and yet a departure for the series in several ways. On one hand, it’s often even more ridiculous and over the top than its predecessor, and on the other surprisingly dramatic, with an emotional resonance not found in the first season. This results in the show feeling more like a reboot/reimagining of the series rather than a simple continuation of the storyline. Now to be sure, many of the classic Geass moments of the first season are present, however, this time around things feel very different in ways that are superior to the original even if R2 itself can’t quite top the overall impact of its predecessor. Some will feel that R2 wasn’t as good as the first season but it does live up to the Code Geass franchise.
Story: Code Geass R2 continues the story of Lelouch Lamperouge and the Black Knights as they continue their fight against the Holy Britannian Empire. We are introduced to more characters including new allies, enemies, and Nightmare Frames. As the series progresses new factions are introduced and new alliances formed, with plot twists abound. The plot twists in R2 are even more abundant, and at times even more implausible and unexpected than the first season, with every episode essentially ending in a cliffhanger. However, the characters this time around are far more likable, even if they are so numerous that many of them, unfortunately, end up being underdeveloped. And while the show starts off slow, the plot eventually moves forward very fast and while stumbles somewhat near the climax, manages to pull off a remarkably well-crafted resolution at the end. Fans who were disappointed by the way the first season ended will undoubtedly be satisfied with the bizarre ending of R2.
Characters: Here’s a series that has real emotional depth and dramatic resonance. Now to be clear, by no means is this a primary focus of R2, however, the actions and motivations of the characters and the events themselves seem to have greater meaning and purpose. The range of emotions felt by the characters is better conveyed: we feel their desperation and determination, their sadness and joy, their anger and regret. Characters that seemed so empty or clichéd in the first season are given greater depth and expression, with exceptions of course. Lelouch, in particular, is a far more interesting character this time around, and his inner conflict and desire for self-resolution. He’ll do things that you wouldn’t expect him to do. Also, his changing relationships with his comrades and enemies alike act as a drive that propels the show from a mere continuation into a rejuvenation of the series. Lelouch fans will definitely find him more interesting and amazing as well as the other characters. Especially Kallen.
Art & Animation: SUNRISE and CLAMPE have definitely outdone itself. The visuals of R2 are not just better than the original, but are also some/one of the best I’ve seen (though somewhat expected considering them using an extraordinary amount of budget.) R2 is definitely more flashier and colorful than ever before, the high quality of the visuals consistently impresses from one episode to the next. The characters and backgrounds are incredibly detailed and the large-scale action sequences are spectacular to watch. The only gripe I have is that the animation itself often lacks fluidity, especially during some of the more hectic action sequences. This didn’t really take much away from the actual quality of the visuals but it is rather noticeable nevertheless. Actually, with the action and everything going on, you won’t even notice the lack of fluidity. And while SUNRISE doesn’t quite stand at the absolute top-tier level in terms of overall animation quality, R2 represents their best work since their old age of shows like Cowboy Bebop. In terms of the animation, Code Geass R2 sure have one of the best this year.
Sound: The audio is just as impressive as the visuals, with great sound effects and the solid voice acting (Jun Fukuyama, Ami Koshimizu, Yukana, etc) you’ve come to expect from the first season. The music, on the other hand, is more of a mixed bag. The soundtrack itself is solid, a score that is well suited for the mixture of tones that a series like Geass goes through. The theme songs, conversely, are merely mediocre and all but one remains memorable. The pop theme surely is one of my favorite having listen to the songs many times.
Enjoyment: While watching, you’ll be hooked onto the episodes and you might even finish the whole series in less than two days. This show will leave you wanting more and more till you have completed it. You might even want to re-watch the series.
Overall: Code Geass R2 is a series that almost every Code Geass fan will be happy to watch – for newer fans watching the first season is recommended. While its approach is often divergent from the first, it shares enough absurdities and overindulgence that those who didn’t like the first series will most likely detest this one. Yet for all its flashiness, its superficiality and its dangerously complex back-story, this is still a far more entertaining series than most of the other shows out there. Again, Code Geass R2 proves that entertainment doesn’t always have to be meaningful, just enjoyable. If you didn’t enjoy the first season, then you most likely will not enjoy R2.
Code Geass is the dumbest show to ever take itself seriously. It is essentially a hackneyed amalgamation of clichés and overused plot devices that clumsily attempts to disguise itself as something greater. Hell, it stole Death Note’s whole shtick, and ruined it completely, before the anime version even finished airing. It blatantly stole from Evangelion, the most popular mecha anime and deconstruction there is, to make one of the weakest and most cliché mecha series ever. Both of the series Code Geass stole from were dark and had at least some depth; Code Geass, on the other hand, juxtaposes pseudo-dark scenes with light school-life harem romcom. Plot develops with a marked carelessness; people die and are inexplicably brought back to life, even though they were either shown dying or there was clearly no way they could have possibly lived. Plot armor at its finest. Oh, did you want an epic and dense war story? Too bad, instead you’re going to get aimless filler, centered on a bunch of people who probably shouldn’t even be in high school, including an episode dedicated to catching a cat. This anime is most notable for having one of the highest concentrations of plot holes and loose ends that I have ever seen.
First of all, the supernatural aspect of the story is just ridiculous and, by extension, the story is as well. This “Geass” ability is completely inconsistent. Sometimes it can be deterred with mere willpower, or even the power of kisses (no joke,) but most of the time it appears to be pretty much undefeatable. There is a Geass canceller that is developed, but it is inexplicably given to only one dude who just pops up whenever he feels like it, with a different personality every time. A weakness, where the ability becomes uncontrollable, introduces itself at one point, but this plot point is quickly dealt with and forgotten. Every Geass user has one single ability granted by their Geass, except for one guy that inexplicably has several, but I won’t even get into that. The biggest issue is that the conflict is all entirely pointless, as Lelouch’s ability allows him to give anybody a command that they must obey. Hell, it can apparently even work on God. This command only works once, but the show makes it entirely clear that he could simply give a command along the lines of “you will be my slave and do whatever I say, until I do x.” So why doesn’t he do that from the very beginning? Because the story must be milked for two seasons, I guess. The whole anime could have ended in episode 1 had Lelouch, the supposed genius, made better use of his ability. Despite this, everything that was built up in the first season is destroyed in the most anticlimactic ending I have ever seen, the show returns to square one, and we have to go through the same style of drawn-out story arc in season two.
Characterization is probably the biggest flaw in Code Geass. The characters are irritating, flat, inconsistent, contrived, and they alone destroy any possibility of this being even a decent anime. The main character, Lelouch, is good at chess and inexplicably predicts a lot of minor events a bit before they happen. This is how we know he’s a genius. He makes a lot of dumb decisions, he wastes troops and resources, he kills potential allies, he spares enemies, he gets caught in needless battles, he makes emotional decisions in battle, he accidentally orders massacres, he never makes a proper back-up plan to deal with things he knows are like to happen, and we never get any indication that he knows the first thing about proper tactics, but he somehow wins battles and he’s somehow a genius. Go figure. Luckily, all “tactics” were just replaced with boring beam spamming in the end, but I don’t know if that’s really much better. Any development in Lelouch’s character is completely contrived and comes out of nowhere. Additionally, he has the inexplicable ability to teleport; at least, that would be the only explanation for how he travels such huge distances so quickly. Suzaku, the kind-of antagonist kind-of not, is probably the dumbest anime character ever created. He is Lelouch’s friend, and if he was a Jew during the holocaust he would do his very best to argue that Hitler is actually an okay guy after all. He believes that the corrupt government should be changed from the inside. So does he get into politics to accomplish this? No, I don’t think he’s really allowed to; instead, he (inexplicably) becomes a mecha pilot for the military that is slaughtering and oppressing his people. He fails to see how this is not helping them. He also moves like a ninja, and dodges bullets, despite being quite clearly anorexic. I’m not even going to talk about their goddawful character designs, just look at some screen shots for that one. All I’ll say on that topic is this: if you’re going to act like a character is hot, then don’t make them an extraordinarily and inhumanly ugly emo anorexic with a ridiculously pointy chin. As for the other characters, there’s some annoying racist yandere lesbian who sexually assaults a table at one point. Seriously. There’s also some immortal chick with green hair who likes pizza; not much else to say about her. There’s an irritating crippled chick, with a completely inconsistent personality, who mostly serves to be useless and need constant protection. Really, for about 90% of the plot, her character just exists to get kidnapped. There’s also some redhead with big tits who loves the main character and has big tits, has a drug addict mother who we forget about for most of the series, and can inexplicably pilot mechas with her big tits and has big tits plus a pair of large breasts. She has a nice ass as well, and you should expect it or her bosom to be the main focus whenever she is in the shot. The “bad guys” are horrible characters as well; one of the main antagonists is eventually revealed to be “a good guy after all, yaaaaay” and the audience is expected to ignore all the horrific atrocities he oversaw. Do these characters sound compelling? Well, if not, then it is because they are not characters at all; they are merely inconsistent and cliché plot devices. Especially the women, who are all objectified to pretty much just get protected, cry, and provide fanservice.
Watch Code Geass if you have a weird Deus ex Machina fetish, but otherwise stay away. It does nothing new and it does nothing well. It doesn’t even fail in an interesting or original way, destroying any chance for campy “so-bad-it’s-good” appeal. As a result, I can’t think of a single positive thing to say about it, and I have no choice but to give it a 1.
1. This review covers both seasons. It would be pointless and unnecessary to write a separate review for each. Some manga series have over 40 volumes and we just write a review for them as a whole. I also fail to see why separate reviews should be written for each season when I’m just going to give each one the same score. The second season would be the inferior one due to even more plot holes, worse characters, more fanservice, and inconsistencies, but it also is more entertaining because there’s less aimless filler, just in case you were wondering. The two are both 1s though.
2. I didn’t mention Shirley or Rolo when I discussed the other characters. Why? Because I’m trying to forget those fuckers exist.
3. Among my most used words for this review were “inexplicably/inexplicable” and “inconsistency/inconsistent.” Yeah, there’s a very good reason for that.
Did it jump the shark? Was it flawlessly executed? Could it have been improved on? Was it outright horrible? That I will not answer; such a question is for you to answer yourself. To me, it was great. It was awesome. While reluctant at first, I always ended up thinking that each change the series brought about, every little plot twist, every character development; it made the series even greater than it was. Every step that it took made it better; that is the undeniable truth for me. However, its pacing made it take too many steps in too short an amount of time, and it nearly stumbled at times. Details could be overlooked, minor events skipped, that wasn’t too much of a problem. But it spent too little time on some of the major events, and in the end I’m not satisfied at all by that.
The previous season took care of the introduction of most of the main cast, which left an opportunity to extensively develop the cast during the second season. This was an opportunity that the creators took, used and drained to its full potential. With its 25 episodes, it does of course not have time to develop the entirety of Code Geass’ cast, which is extremely large for its length – close to 80 named primary, secondary and tertiary characters. However, they developed the main cast extensively, did a great job with the supporting characters, and the new ones that were introduced were really cool too. Some may classify Lelouch’s development as jumping the shark, but personally I felt that they did a great job, and that he is a great character; one whom I could believe in when it came to his development and actions, all the way to – and especially during – the very end.
Another aspect that Code Geass brings into perspective is love. There’s a lot of loving going on between various characters, and this allowed for both drama and comedy to be played out, and it was done so in a very good fashion too. Several characters’ love stories revolve around Lelouch, most notably those of Shirley and Kallen; both who obviously like Lelouch quite a lot. This is given both comedic and dramatic effects, and eventually plays an important part in the plot.
The animation superseded the previous season’s, improving on nearly all points. By now you are probably used to the CLAMP-styled character designs, and who knows, you might’ve even grown to like them, in spite of their lankiness. Backgrounds and sceneries are done with good detail, and were enjoyable to behold, and the same can be said about the Knightmare battles. Animated in a perfect juxtapose of fluidity and chaos, mixed with great special- and ligthing effects, the battles were enjoyable aesthetically in addition to everything else they provided the viewer with.
The soundtrack was perfect for the series, this season as well. Keeping some old ones, introducing new ones, the soundtrack was refreshed, yet it kept the same tone it had during the previous season. The background music, while nothing especially noteworthy, provided an amplifying effect to the atmosphere; be it battle, thought, love, comedy or something else. The opening and ending themes were good this season too, with the second opening theme standing out as the best one. The final episode ended nicely with an insert song that made the scenes that unfolded before my eyes make me cry – I’m a sensitive person. They did one mistake however, and that was by not ending it after that insert song; of all things they had to fire in the Ali Project ending, which completely ruined the poignancy that had been built up.
Code Geass R2 provides an highly entertaining sequel that has fallen into the hit-or-miss pit-trap, with hating on one side and loving on the other. How you will react to it, only the gods know that, so all that I can say is: watch it to the very end and see for yourself. The constant plot twists may sway your opinion up and down multifarious times. It did with me, but in the end, everything fell to place and all went well.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch R2
2. Aria the Origination
4. Mobile Suit Gundam 00
5. Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Second Season
6. Macross F
7. Casshern Sins
9. Tetsuwan Birdy Decode
10. Toaru Majutsu no Index