They are by far the best anime! We counts down the best anime to come out all the time, including the likes of Eat-Man, Hand Maid May, Silent M?bius, and more!
MAL Score: 6.42
Meet Bolt Crank, mercenary extraordinaire, and the man who eats metal! Through his travels, he stops along the way to make a few bucks and occasionally rescue damsels in distress. His taste for metal gives him quite an edge as he becomes capable of generating an assortment of weapons from his hand! It’s a strange ability, but it seems to come in handy, so to speak. Bolt has an edge over his adversaries, but will that be enough?
1. What is this? 2. Who is this lumbering fool of a protagonist? 3. Is there an overall theme tying this show’s episodes together? 4. What is the point of the broken flying airship? 5. What is the point of all this?
To answer these in order:
1. This is the show Eat-Man from 1997. Not the 1998 one.
2. Bolt Crank, greatest mercenary of all time in the world and universe ever.
3. Bolt Crank, greatest mercenary of all time in the world and universe ever.
With these questions answered, I basked in the horrendous, edgy, and hilarious glory of this show.
This show was a random encounter for a friend and I, and watching it would change our lives forever. Eat-Man, per my research, is not a direct adaptation of the manga. After viewing Eat-Man ’98 and witnessing the sheer difference and sharp incline in quality, I can say Eat-Man is just as enjoyable, for all the opposite reasons to Eat-Man ’98.
Something you need to know, I love shlock (ie. action, dialogue, whatever). I also hold no nostalgia for this show as this was my first viewing. When I state this, I mean it in terms of my perception: Eat-Man goes beyond shlock and becomes what I’d consider the ultimate “so bad that it is terrible, but also absolutely hilarious” anime I have seen thus far.
There isn’t much. Just know this: each episode is different and the only linking chains between them are Bolt Crank, the episode’s girl of the week, and the ruined airship L’avion (which is still afloat throughout the series). In fact, sans the final two episodes, there is nothing connecting the episodes at all. It doesn’t even feel like the same universe, or even the same show half the time until we see our hero, Bolt Crank, standing and staring off into the distance, waiting for the plot to happen to someone else, so they can bring him in and have him intervene in a minor way. Bolt Crank exists just because the plot needs him to do something each episode, whether it makes narrative sense or not.
Sometimes, the plots of each episode can seem intriguing, but sometimes they are dealt with so lazily or so unexpectedly it just seems so ridiculous. There were moments I looked over to my friend in stunned disbelief that the plot was unfolding in such a way, with Bolt Crank being made to appear badass but arguably comes off as incompetent or non-sensical. Absolute comedy gold.
The writing is laughable and lacks any context to the world or motivations. Episode 6, in particular, is so lazy writing wise and is without any real indication or attempt to construct a plot that makes sense, and reusing a 4 minute asset twice to pad out the length…it is lazy, but it is also very remarkable at how baffled I was watching it. Any questions you have about the world will go unanswered. Any questions you have about plot relevance will go unanswered. This is Eat-Man, damn it. Enjoy the half-baked symbolism.
I did find it funny, to be honest, that this came before Trigun. At least it doesn’t seem like a ripoff.
Bog standard. Very dark, very 90’s feel to the art, what they show of it anyway. The animation lacks fluidity, wirh extreme closeups and odd editing ruining any sense of gravitas (but they sure do make me laugh). There is some visual flair here or there, but overall the animation is serviceable at best and underutilized at worst. The character design for most denizens of this world are relatively generic sans Bolt Crank, who dons a large totally badass trench coat and super cool red sunglasses (that remind me of The Professional) and a strange haircut that doesn’t make sense the more I look at it. In fact, the reason you recognize Bolt so much is his design; the man looks like a giant box with his shoulders that fuckin’ square.
One point of uniqueness for Eat-Man is that it does feature some pretty snappy music; the OP theme (while lyrically cheesy) does a good job to hype the viewer as well as the music heard throughout the show, mixing in ambient to rock to electronica to blues. It’s not bad and I quite liked it when I heard it (unironically).
The aforementioned design of the character is merely one aspect of the enigma that is Bolt Crank. When he is not eating literal bolts or metal objects (hence the title of the show), Bolt walks the wasteland in search of fun and excitement…I mean, mercenary work…I mean, places to stand for a bit and stare off into the distance. His other gimmick aside from eating metal is the power to reform any material in his right hand. In this show, it really underutilizes this concept as Bolt will usually just form a gun in his hand.
Almost all other characters are there but forgettable. There is a female each episode that will often find solace and comfort in the Frankenstein’s monster-esque Bolt Crank or somehow involve him into the proceedings. It feels forced, rushed, and not fleshed out for most ideas here, but the characters especially are.
It’s clear they wanted to make a badass character out of Bolt…this would be achieved in Eat-Man ’98. Here, Bolt Crank is about as badass as Neil Breen is in his films. Also; both play mercenaries walking in the desert searching for jobs and are extremely deadly badass killers…I hope a live action version of Eat-Man stars Neil Breen, he would kill it.
And here is why I feel I am a hipster; combine all I said from the previous sections. This show does so many things wrong but with such aplomb that I am amazed at how much I just wanted to see it through. Never is it boring. Never did I want to stop watching. Each strange choice and misstep just made the experience that much more fun. Enjoyed ironically it’s a damn fantastic time, and unironically it’s honestly such a baffling show with such a weird protagonist that I kind of love it.
Overall, I was going to leave this unrated but you have to rate it. I think it is simultaneously a 10 and a 1, constantly riding the line between awful and amazing. Perhaps Eat-Man is both amazingly awful yet also awfully amazing, and I’m not giving this show a 1 after being struck with laughter so hard it made me cry. Perhaps I’m overselling the potential hilarity there is here, as humor is subjective and this is not intended to be comedic, but the sheer amount of baffling ideas and choices alongside cheesy action shlock just make me laugh and filled with happiness. If you have that mentality, this is a great show to gawk at and make fun of.
If you want a quality show, check out Eat-Man ’98 instead.
10/10 best new music also 1/10
Some of the episodes are varying in tone.
A good but not great show for fans of YK and kino.
Don’t expect many answers/explanations to most of the plots, the majority of it is conjecture.
The genre/cover is fairly misleading, there is very little action, and the superpower is there, but only to serve a purpose. Dont expect epic superman fights.
Regardless, its definitely not best to go into this show hoping/expecting much.
Definitely give it a shot if any of this interests you in the least.
The story is rather poor being a very episodic show. Until the last 3 episodes, there is almost no plot progression. The general plot for all of the other episodes follows around some girl that Bolt Crank has met this week and he will do some “mercenary” work which is just odd jobs.
The characters are interesting enough with our main character Bolt Crank having a fairly unique power. He can turn metal and other items that he ingests into more useful items like guns. Seems like a very helpful skill if he ever needed to walk in somewhere unarmed. The girl of the week can be interesting with the soldier girls and the doctor woman being my favorite. All of these stories are self contained so you could watch episode 1 and then skip to episode 9 if you really want to avoid all of the pointless stuff and meeting Bolt Crank more.
Sound is fairly good with that 90s synth and style to it. If you like generic 90s background music then this will be perfectly fine. The opening is lackluster with no visuals other than credits and the ending is the same way. This was a bit strange but the songs themselves are fine.
You can really tell this show had a low budget compared to other anime that Studio Deen was making at the same time. Rurouni Kenshin was airing at the same time and that looks fine to this day if you don’t mind the 4:3 aspect ratio. The art in Eat-Man is fine and if you like 90s science fiction anime then this will feel right at home but it wasn’t the greatest looking anime airing at this time. Also for some reason Bolt Crank has his mouth slightly open most of the time for no good reason. Probably a good thing for memes since some of those faces are pure gold out of context.
This is a show you can kill some time with and the story is very straightforward most of the time. Its not a hard anime to enjoy. The biggest barrier to entry is the age and how its not as refined as modern adaptations. Its also supposedly out shined by its own sequel Eat-Man 98.
You could do a lot worse than watching this anime. You could also do a lot better. Its not a waste of time but it is one of those things that will never gain any real popularity at this point so there is hardly anyone to talk about this anime with. Its just a very slow show that puts its best foot forward at the very end which makes it just okay. Its an okay anime from the 90s and in most cases if time is a big factor, your better off watching something else.
Eat-Man will be one of those anime that is just forgotten to time by the general anime watching community and that’s okay.
26: Hand Maid May
Japanese: HAND MAID メイ
MAL Score: 6.72
Saotome Kazuya is a computer whiz. One day his friend Nanbara, threatens him with a computer virus. Trying to stop the virus, Kazuya ends up making a special order. May is a cyberdoll that arrives at his door a few minutes later and she is 1/6th the size of a normal person, which makes for many awkward situations. Not to mention the fact Kazuya can’t even afford to keep May. Cyberdyne is not satisfied with Kazuya’s non-payments and will do anything to retrieve CBD May.
Story: The story was pretty good. It’s definitely not your ordinary harem plot for all the women to fight over one guy, but inevitably it had drama in it and it did make a guy like me cry a couple times. Romance was definitely a part of this series and I applaud the creators of this great series.
Art: Well, the art is a bit older, but I was amazed to see the clouds in the Typhoon episode had colors that not even my modern graphics card could display. Otherwise the art was typical of the time it was made. It wasn’t child like chibi stuff and it wasn’t too realistic, it had it’s own flow that sat really well with the series.
Sound: As a musician I tend to hear the music more than other people do. The OST does have a few romantic songs in them that I wouldn’t mind getting, but overall the music matched perfectly with the moods throughout the entire series. Sound Effects were not bad and didn’t lag in any way.
Character: Each character is something you would see in animes in the current day. A shy maid, a teasing researcher, a gluten, an energetic mom, a violent childhood friend, a constantly complaining friend, a shy guy who can’t choose between anyone and a daring little girl. All typical if you look at modern anime’s. This series to me was one of the first to have done this and was likely the one to shape most harem anime’s proceeding it. All the characters felt unique in their own way and had lots of their own purposes.
Enjoyment: This was definitely an enjoyable anime. At times it made me laugh to the point I couldn’t breath or to the point I was going to throw up and it also made me cry a few times. It definitely had the romance that I was looking for and the harem fighting didn’t go overboard at any time.
Overall: I give this anime a 9/10. It was very romantic with some drama, it was a heavenly slice of life with beautiful Cyber Dolls and charming nerds.
However, the only thing I do not like about this series, is that one of the characters constantly yells. It reminded me of Girls Bravo where one of the male characters not only fondles all the women, but constantly screams his head off, which is why I probably gave Girls Bravo a lower rating.
The only reason i’m giving the story a 6 is because it didn’t get too dramatic until the second half of the series.
the sound was just phenominal (sorry can’t spell that) The Opening theme and Ending theme really gave it that extra push!
A Recommendation for all Harem / Ecchi Fans out there!
The story is nothing special by any means, its mostly just one of the "day to day life" of the characters with random things happening here and there. Most of the enjoyment in this show comes from the relational battles and character interactions, and of course everything being uber moe.
The art is done pretty good, all the characters look well done. There aren’t a whole lot of scene changes so there isn’t a whole lot of backgrounds or moving animation sequences but for what there is, it all looks good. Lots of bright and happy colors to keep everything in an upbeat mood for the most part.
As for the characters themselves, they all seem to have quirky things about them that makes them interesting, with the exception of the main character being the typical harem guy figure.
The sound is good. For the cyber doll effects, they did a cute job with the various sound effects of the robotics and other little misc things of the sort. The sound track is nice and happy as with the flow of the show.
I have seen both the dub and sub, and for sure go with the sub, not only do the voices in english not really portray the characters as well, but the girls just sound so much cuter in japanese, and that is what this show is all about.
Overall an average yet enjoyable watch. Since there is a lack of plot for most of the show, they try to throw in some emotional events and surprises at the end but it doesn’t make up the lack everywhere else. Dont strain yourself to see this show, but dont completely ignore it.
25: Silent M bius
MAL Score: 6.79
The year is 2023 and Alien Beings known as “Lucifer Hawks” have begun invading earth from another dimension. All that stands between them and the enslavement of the human race is the Attacked Mystification Police Department – a special division of the Tokyo Police staffed by women with amazing paranormal abilities.
Speaking of dubbing, Silent Mobius has one of the worst dubs I�ve heard in a while. Some of the characters are alright (not great, but alright) such as Kiddy and Katsumi, but other characters are so painful to listen to that it almost temps me to drop my final score of this anime down a few notches. The one voice actor who got on my nerves the most was Barry W. Levy who provided the voice for Robert (Roy) DeVice. I don�t know who his voice coach was, but he had this horrible habit of putting a period after every word he said (so.he.talked.like.this.), which got annoying quick. And don�t even get me started on his weak display of emotions. Every time there was an emotional scene with Roy (especially a crying scene) I wanted to close my eyes and pretend it wasn�t happening. How this guy gets to play alongside Matthew Perry in an upcoming movie is beyond me, but since Silent Mobius came out nearly ten years ago I�ll give him the benefit of the doubt. If all you have to do to escape Barry Levy�s voice (although granted he�s not the only crappy voice actor here, just my pick for bad tomato) is put up with reading subtitles I�d say it�s well worth it. Japanese audio is the way to go with this series, trust me.
One thing I found rather interesting was how the setting of the series was like a character all on it�s own. It�s very distinct and memorable. It�s almost like a futuristic post-apocalyptic version of Gotham, where governments have pretty much turned their heads away from the state of the city and have essentially helped in making it the mess that it is. Also much like Gotham the city has two sides to itself. It has its rather nice residential areas where people of higher class can live respectably, and then it has the broke down and poor parts where nobody (especially cops and AMP members) should ever go. One of the early episodes had our heroine-in-training Katsumi Liqueur and her soon to be boyfriend and fellow police officer Roy get trapped in the worst part of town after their vehicle crashes (with the help of a little sabotage, of course), and they had to make their way around without drawing attention to themselves, which meant they needed to change into something a little less �cop-like�. This is probably the first episode that really pulled me in because it gave so much life to the city depicted in the series. Later episodes further expand upon this, but they don�t forget about the cast members either.
Each of the characters of Silent Mobius have at least one episode almost entirely devoted to them, which is always a welcomed aspect when in need of a little character development. When the series first started it felt a lot like my first day of school. I didn�t know any of the characters, and certainly wasn�t able to remember any of their names, but by the end of the series, much like the end of the school year, I knew all of the characters by name and face alike. This is all thanks to some great character development and nicely spread screen time between them. The progress of the series is nicely paced as well, and just when you think you�ve got it pegged it throws at you an Alice in Wonderland tie-in and an episode about time travel to grab your attention incase its lost it. It�s true that Silent Mobius can be very predictable at times and some episodes do feel as though they�re dragging along, but for the most part it knows when to change it up by tossing in a couple of huge plot twists and killing off a character here and there that you probably didn�t expect to die.
The audio and animation quality of Silent Mobius are both equally as good. Not all of the music is something I would have on my MP3 player anytime soon, but the OP and ED themes (aside from the second ED, which I�m not a big fan of) both do their part respectively. The animation was overall very good but there are some recycled scenes here and there, and for an action anime I guess it would have been nice for things to be a bit more fluid, but it�s not something to complain too much about. One thing is for certain though: if you�re looking for blood and guts and/or sex this isn�t the anime for you. There is a little bit of mild violence sprinkled around throughout the series but nothing even close to excessive. And I think I can recall one sex scene with possibly some brief nudity, but nothing gratuitous at all. I also don’t remember hearing much profanity. Also, if you’re looking for a Sci-Fi anime with one of those deep philosophical and extremely technical plots I suggest avoiding this one and turning to something along the lines of Neon Genesis Evangelion instead. Silent Mobius is for younger teens and above, with an interesting Sci-Fi storyline that doesn�t go over viewers heads for a change, and has a nice dosage of romance, comedy, and mystery on the side. If you�re in the mood for a little Sci-Fi action that doesn�t require you to dust off the old Webster�s Dictionary, then I suggest giving Silent Mobius a try.
My Score: 8.5
Version Watched: English Dub
The conflict between AMP and the Lucifer Hawks proves to be an engaging one, especially towards the second half of Silent Mobius. Enough plot twists are tossed out where certain AMP characters are revealed to have past connections to what led the Hawks to our world, the series isn’t afraid to toss its characters into deadly and depressing situations (even tossing in a character death that shakes the resolve of one prominent character) and the major antagonist of the series hatches a clever plan that pushes AMP to its breaking point in the final episodes of the series. These shocking developments kept me hooked on the series from start to finish.
Silent Mobius also has enough time in exploring and giving enough details as to how society functions in the wake of the problems that humanity faced by Lucifer Hawks to give the series somewhat of a cyberpunk vibe. Corporations in charge of the day-to-day operations of major areas of society, entire areas of a city being slums for criminals due to no land redevelopment to them, malfunctioning robots running amuck, people coming to grips over loss of human identity with becoming a cyborg (big subject with Kiddy’s character). The fact the series could give enough of these elements while retaining focus on its characters and the continued conflict with Lucifer Hawks did well at catching my interest.
The show’s not without its imperfections. Some characters seem a bit underdeveloped compared to others (Lum and Lebia) and the Lucifer Hawks don’t get much in the way of fleshing out. In addition, the show lacks a proper resolution as Silent Mobius concluded during the middle of some major plot developments revealed in the show’s final episode.
The visuals to Silent Mobius are a bit of a mixed bag. While sporting bright colors and defined details with scenery and character designs, the style of animation tends to get inconsistent on occasion, particularly with how character faces are drawn. The series does make use of CG animation in its rendering of magical effects and a later scene involving a Lucifer Hawk which stick out from the regular animation. And for an action series, the animation is rather lackluster as shortcuts are apparent on a number of occasions with still shots and reused animation frames. The soundtrack to the series, on the other hand, was high quality throughout as the tracks matched well with the moods of the various situations faced by the characters consisting of selections such as dramatic ballads and intense insert music.
Overall, Silent Mobius made for an engaging paranormal/ sci-fi action series which expands upon the content from the two earlier movie adaptations by further exploring its world and characters with some engaging plot twists to boot making it a better adaptation of its manga source material despite its lack of a proper ending.
Yes, there in 2023 things are no longer as we know, abominable creatures known as Lucifer Hawk (a name that to me makes no sense), terrorizing people, more precisely in the Tokyo city. To combat these creatures a special police department was created, the Department 00, also known as AMP (Attacked Mystification Police Force) which is formed only by women!
The story has everything I really love when it comes to an anime with women! They are in charge, are strong and powerful, and we still have a hint of romance. I really love the romance of Kiddy and Ralph. At first they were like rivals, Kiddy being as tough as Ralph, and both live fighting, until fall in love. No doubt a classic love story!
Many times the story becomes confusing when trying to explain how was the appearance of the Lucifer Hawk, and especially who opened the Nemesis gates. It is insinuated that who does it is the father Katsumi, Gigelf Liqueur, however, in all episodes have something about him, I always had the impression that he tried to prevent the opening of the gates. However, it is not explicit who actually caused all the current decline of the planet. They are sometimes cited secret projects like Gaea Project that are secret even to us, their details are not clear.
An interesting point of Silent Mobius is that taking out the soundtracks of background, most of the songs are in English, fleeing rather than we see in anime in general. Both ending are sung in English, delicate and soothing “Silently” and the romantic “Till The End Of Time”. One exception is opening “Forbidden Pensee”, an exciting music with subtle touch of mystery. The background music are also not to throw away bring orchestral atmosphere that perfectly blends the mysterious and dark side of Silent Mobius. The character designs was something that take long to get used to, at first things seemed a little strange, such as Katsumi’s face it, depending on your perspective seemed higher, which left her with a look of older than she really was .
At first I thought that 26 episodes would not be enough for addressing every story that was to come, as we got to the 11th episode, and was even introduced the story of some character. Maybe that’s why some important explanations end up getting out and everything seems to happen disorderly.
24: Battle Athletess Daiundoukai (TV)
English: Battle Athletes Victory
MAL Score: 6.87
Akari Kanzaki has just joined an all-girls academy in hopes of entering the University Satellite, an elite sports training facility. She wants to win the title of Cosmo Beauty – a title held years ago by her mother. It’s not an easy task for her as fear, doubt and peer pressure get in her way, but friends, rivals and fans slowly encourage her to overcome her obstacles and become the best of the Battle Athletes.
Our story opens in a training ground in Antarctica where a bunch of young female athletes are racing across an obstacle course while dragging giant steamrollers. It urns out that after an event that wiped out most of humanity, humans rebuilt and set up training schools to try and get the top athletes. The best students go to a satellite University to compete for the coveted “Cosmo Beauty” title. What I like about this series is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It uses all the regular elements of a sport anime, but it uses them in a tongue in cheek way, mixes in sci-fi elements and just plays up their absurdity in general. So, while it is predictable, the comedic elements keep the viewer invested and keep the action interesting. That being said, the series has its problems too. The biggest being that it’s pretty racist. For most of the athletes, the series will give some specific country or place of origin: China, Osaka, Russia, the United States, a specific encampment on the moon and so on. There’s one character, however, whose area of origin is a continent. Her name is Tanya and her area of origin is “Africa.” Not like that’s a huge continent or anything. To make it worse, she’s a very… “primitive,” is unfortunately the most apt term, character. She’s superstitious, she runs on all fours, she’s simple minded to an absurd degree, she even howls at one point. Who knows, maybe the nations of Africa were too busy making artistic and scientific advancements, but they didn’t want to offend the rest of the world so they found the dumbest, but most athletic girl they could, made up a bunch of superstitions to teach her and sent her on her way. They bet on the rest of the world being too clueless to notice that Africa has multiple countries. Another issue is that the het romance, although there’s very little of it, is really creepy and involves major age and power imbalances. On the positive side, the yuri romance, which there’s a lot more of, is pretty cute and well handled. Was Hideyuki trying to actively encourage lesbianism or did he just figure people would accept the het regardless of how screwed up it was and, consequently, he didn’t bother trying to make it good? The world may never know but this is the writer behind Read or Die, so the former seems likely.
The major characters are, for the most part, decently fleshed out and developed. The major exception being the aforementioned racist stereotype. One nice little touch is that Akari’s development arc is pretty realistic. She goes through both good and difficult times with certain elements becoming prominent based on which end of the spectrum she’s on. Each cycle she goes through becomes demonstrative of her growth. She becomes better at handling both extremes with maturity and grace as things progress. I also really liked Akari’s love interest, Kris. She’s just amazing.
The art is nothing special. It’s pretty standard late 90s fare. About the most visually interesting it gets is towards the end when certain elements are introduced that I can’t really go into without giving spoilers. That being said, it is competent artwork.
The voice acting in this is really good. You have some really great actresses like Hisakawa Aya, Kawakami Tomoko and Itou Miki being among the biggest names. The music is pretty nice as well.
The ho-yay factor is a 6/10. Primarily because of Akari and Kris. Although Akari and Ichino have their moments as well. There’s also the dynamic between Lahrii and Mylandah.
And that’s Battle Athletes. To be honest, I rather liked it, in spite of its racism. It’s a fun series with some good characters, and one really bad one. The jokes are usually very effective, Akari and Kris have a lot of cute moments and it is an entertaining watch, if you can ignore or forgive its issues. Final rating: 7/10. Next week I’ll look at Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge.
What is this anime about?
Anime turns from light comedy into quite serious spokon with drama about girls who try to overdo their own abilities, with blood, jealousy, broken bones and rivalry until the end. Sometimes serious scenes are mixed with slice of lifecomedy parts.
Anime pays particular attention to such kinds of sport as running and swimming, and also pole vaulting, tennis, air hockey and so on.
Also near to the end you will be surprised by some entertaining plot twist.
Mankind was nearly destroyed 3000 years ago, but then Earth was recovered and humanity colonized Solar system. Sport became important part of people`s everyday life. Sport academies were founded on each planet to find the best athletes to attend the University Satellite.
There the best sport girls can take part in The Big Competition to become a Cosmo Beauty – the best athlet in the universe. Why only girls can attend this university you will find out when that plot twist happen.
Main heroine is cute and gentle Akari Kanzaki. Her mother was the legendary Cosmo Beauty who set lots of records. Akari will have to go through the hard way and turn from a weak girl, who hides from the troubles in the cardboard box with inscription “Akari house” to strong athlet to keep her promise given to her mother. I liked Akari so much actually.
All other characters have their own peculiarities too. Ayla and Jessie compete so hard that fall unconscious while swimming, Ichino starts envy to Akari when she becomes better that her, but fate punishes Ichino for this wrongdoing.
Anna does a terrible thing to her sister to attend the university. Chris torments between her religion and sport, and also she is a lesbian and loves Akari. Tanya is mischievous african girl who worships to totems.
Average for those years, but I liked it.
Nice OP song “Tsubasa” by Yukari Asakura. Also I liked voice of Akari`s seiyuu Rio Natsuki.
Sometimes sport competitions in this anime finish a little bit naive, nevertheless it was so pleasant to watch. I definately recommend it for people who like sport, drama, girls and the relationships between them.
One of these young hopefuls is Akari Kanzaki, who… Let’s just face it, is completely hopeless. She’s slow, fragile, and is just as clueless as to what she’s doing at the Antarctic training site as we are. Being the daughter of Tomoe Midoh, the greatest Cosmo Beauty in the history of the Great competition, she has the genetic make-up that any other competitor would kill for, but her athletic abilities, and her attitude towards training, make her long-lasting lock on last place feel even more painful to watch. While some of her fellow students may have a soft spot for the doe-eyed lump, others see her as an insult to everything they’ve dedicated their lives towards, and aren’t shy about letting her know it. But could the apathetic Akari be more than meets the eye? Could her exterior, which is about as threatening as a rag doll, be hiding an untapped well of talent that’s just begging to be discovered? And even going beyond that, is there some darker truth hiding behind the Great competition itself? As the competition heats up, and the champs rise above the chumps, the 1003’rd Cosmo Beauty may turn out to be the most important one of all.
For Battle Athletes victory, we return to AIC, or Anime International company, only this time we’re looking at one of their earliest works, which came out in the late nineties. The series will be 20 years old this October, and as such, it looks extremely dated. This was a time when the moe style was nowhere to be seen, anime had to work harder to look good regardless of budget, and character designs ranged from cartoony to realistic, while rarely ever straying away from believable human anatomy. Artwork was a lot less polished, and physiques were exaggerated a lot more than they are today. For the time it came out in, Battle Athletes victory looks really good… When it wants to. The animation in this title is heavily inconsistent, and it works for the most part. For athletic competitions that can’t be written off with cheap budget saving tricks(And a few of them definitely are), the animation can be straight up gorgeous. I’ve heard it said that one of the most difficult things to animate is character’s legs when they’re walking and running, and yeah, I’ve seen enough failed attempts to understand this.
A lot of work goes into the simple visual of feet hitting and pressing back off of the ground, which is why a lot of animation tends to focus on above the feet, if they’re not just resorting to bouncing the image of the character’s face. In spite of this, I’m not exaggerating when I say that Battle Athletes Victory makes running animation look easy. They can pull it off at any speed, from fast running that doesn’t give you time to analyze it, to slow-motion running that perfectly captures every single movement of the body to the point that I have to wonder just how much live action research they must have done beforehand. A lot of money clearly got poured into these scenes, because most of the other sports featured in this show aren’t really as impressive. That’s not to say they look bad, but there’s a lot of close-ups, a lot of short bursts of action, and occasionally even repeated animation cycles that are meant to give the illusion of physical activity, and thanks to some smart editing, it almost always works. About half of the action in this series is running, of course, so it’s still an impressive looking series.
Well, for the most part, at least. The budget gets spread too thin at times, and when they run into trouble with it, the quality just abruptly tanks. There are sequences, and a couple of entire episodes, that look less like a high budget show from the late nineties and more like a low budget show from the early nineties. A lot of the material between competitions is just characters talking, interacting and having the camera freeze on them during internal monologues, and this does worlds of good for the budget, but at it’s worst, even scenes like those wind up looking like ass. The character designs, while imaginative, don’t follow the most attractive color palette, making the artwork look kinda grungy at times, and since the characters are mostly designed to carry realistic human anatomy, there are only a few of them that can get away with deformed anime expressions… Some of the more serious characters, such as Akari’s rival Jessie, just look terrifying when attempting to do the same. The color saturation and use of lighting are beautiful, but there are too many instances where the artwork looks rough, and over-all unfinished.
The music, while pretty repetitive, is unbelievable. As with any good sports-related media, the story has a deeply emotional feel to it, and the music composed by Yoshikazu Suo was clearly designed to augment these emotions. Some of the happier moments between competitions will be played alongside the upbeat “There’s no Point Unless You Goal,” actual competition will be accompanied by the intense pounding beat of Battle Program, and for those more devastating and heart-breaking moments… Of which there is a surprising amount… We’ll get the violin track Adagio of Despair. Character themes were very thoughtfully put together and instantly reminiscent of the characters they’re attached to… Even when that’s primarily because they’re based on the races of extremely stereotypical characters, which i’m going to get to in a minute… But the highlight is Wings, the opening to the series, and easily on of my favorite of all time. Joyful and inspirational, and full of imagery that gives each character a fair dose of screen time while throwing in subtle hints about the series. Too bad you only get to see it once per disk… No, I’m not kidding. The same can be said for the sweet Honeybee, the closing theme.
The English dub is a bit hit or miss, but I still prefer it over the Japanese by a great deal, even if the writers made a few embarrassing mistakes in it, such as mistakenly writing a flashback scene as a current scene, or having Akari say another character’s name before actually learning it. I can kind of imagine mistakes like those happening in the old days, but it would be unheard of today. Hey, at least they didn’t try to crowbar in any pointless references to obscure current events, am I right? Anyway, the cast is full of Geneon actors from the late nineties, including the legendary Lia Sargent as the main character Akari, whom she plays very straightforward, innocent and full of heart, even as she grows from a spoiled and co-dependent slacker into a stronger, more confidant idealist, constantly changing while still sounding like the same person at heart. Wendee Lee plays the gruff Osakan native Itchino, in what’s probably one of my favorite roles of hers, as she balances the characters softer and tougher sides fluidly. Steve Blum also gets a small role as the University Satellite headmaster, Grant Oldman, although it’s not a very demanding role, his presence is still appreciated.
Bridget Hoffman pulls double duty as both the Chinese stereotype character Ling Pha, which she performs in a comedically exaggerated accent, and then in a much more dignified role as Anna, who… Like one of her more recent characters… Is a sweet, diminutive girl with a dark, potentially dangerous side that’s hiding beneath the surface. As a treat to any Trigun fans that happen to be reading this, Dorothy Elias-Fahn plays Kris Christopher, a strange but strong-willed girl who has a deep, unrequited crush on Akari. So it’s basically the Milly and Meryl pairing you thought would never happen. Also, as an interesting for Ghost in the Shell fans, two different Motoko Kusanagi actors… Mary Elizabeth McGlynn from the anime and Mimi Woods from the video game, play characters that never actually meet or speak to each other. They’re both good, but McGlynn is phenomenal at how she plays an emotionless character who finds emotion through competition. Julie Maddalena probably had the only bad performance, but I don’t really blame her, because she was playing an annoying and entirely problematic character, so she was probably doing the best she could with what she was given. Finally, we get Jamieson Price, and as much as I’d like to go into detail about why he’s so amazing in this, his character is unfortunately mired in spoilers.
So if you haven’t realized by now, this show is really freaking weird. It’s possibly even one of the weirdest anime I’ve ever seen. There are a ton of strange anime out there that just shove weirdness into your face until it hits diminishing returns and becomes passé, such as Hare + Guu and Excel Saga, but with victory, the weirdness is paced in a way that it can keep consistently shocking you, as each strange detail that gets added to the story makes it’s impact and then settles neatly into the reality of the series’ universe, becoming commonplace for both the viewer and the characters… Until the next kooky detail comes along. So what if one of the main characters has a pet cow that’s allowed to live in her dorm with her? That’s just Gyuube, don’t mind her. So what if an alien turns a girl into a car? those aliens are just like that. So what if one of the show’s only male characters needs a constant supply of chocolate to survive? So what if some characters have unexplained jewels embedded in the foreheads, while other girls don’t? This series takes place in a strange world, with a strange premise, and it seems to revel in the idea of completely ignoring your expectations.
To it’s credit, though, it’s not like it tries to trick you into letting your guard down for it. Victory lets you know right off the bat how weird it’s going to be right from the first shot of episode 1, where the athletes at the Antarctica Training Center are in the middle of an important assessment test, racing while pulling gigantic rolling weights behind them. They’re not just pulling these multi-ton items behind them unhindered, however… They’re moving over rough terrain, avoiding booby traps, and even using their weights as weapons against each other. The results are of course catastrophic, as them main character(Whose been in dead last nearly the entire race) accidentally launches into the air and takes out a media reporter’s hot air balloon. And if that’s not enough, right in the second episode, there’s a biking competition where the contestants are riding on a roller-coaster track, which is designed not only to go up and down, around curves and loop-de-loop like a real roller coaster, but which can even be moved and rearranged DURING THE RACE from a control room overlooking the action.
If you can get through episode 2 without picking up on the fact that this series will leave no shark unjumped, you must have been fiddling with your phone the entire time. Not everything got the sci-fi treatment, of course… We get more normal sports like racing, soccer, tennis and the like. But when it came to making up weird sports, this series goes balls to the wall with it’s level of creativity and imagination. Like a game of pool where the balls are huge, and you have to break them by bowling. Or zero-gravity lacrosse that adds several new dimensions to the game. Then there’s my personal favorite, when they play air hockey, but the puck is as big as a dinner plate, and it’s literally hovering in mid-air. There are others, of course, but in most of these events, the human limit is constantly being pushed and broken, even before we see runners that can accelerate fast enough to create shock waves, and there’s seemingly no rule against injuring your opponent in the middle of battle, as people being taken out with grueling injuries is seen as little other than an elimination.
I’d normally be tearing apart a show like this over how ridiculous it is, how little sense it makes, and how almost none of it could feasibly happen in the real world, even in a dystopian future. Hell, there ARE some plot details I can’t get over, but that’s just the thing… They’re plot details, not connected to the weird pieces of sports logic throughout the series. What ultimately saves this show from being too stupid to excuse is just how sincere it all is. Yeah, the featured sporting events may be ridiculously beyond human capabilities,
but to it’s credit, the athletes performing them are constantly TRAINING themselves beyond human capabilities, and the final story arc gives us an actual solid reason(albeit still just as ridiculous) for why they need to train to surpass conceivable human limits. It never feels like their abilities are undeserved, either… The characters train their asses off, and even when you don’t get to see them do so, you can easily tell from their attitudes what their approach is to training as well as just how serious they are about it. Those that don’t are considered ‘naturals,’ and are treated as anomalies.
So, ultimately, what saves this series from being laughable is it’s mastery over character writing. Every single character who gets even a mild level of importance is given a distinct arc, full of development and memorable moments. Akari easily gets the most of it, because in a way that’s almost reminiscent of Goku, every time she breaks into a new level of ability, there’s another major lesson she has to learn, and another serious challenge for her to overcome, and they all seem to make sense, despite rarely being predictable and once or twice relying on some shaky logic. I went into some detail about this in my review of Gunbuster last year, but throughout the course of the story, Akari is forced to evolve and grow as a character, from a whiny, spoiled little doll to a fierce competitor who can shave significant time off of her running speed just by reading a tip in a book. She has to overcome limits and challenges that are really more psychological than physical, and she’s not the only one. Everyone in this show has demons they have to deal with in order to grow and develop.
There’s a lot of ways to bring depth to your writing, and one of those ways is to have your story be about something. It can be a theme, it can be an idea, but it has to be consistent. Battle Athletes victory is a story about Truth. I don’t mean abstractly, like learning how not to lie, I mean deep, complex truth. The truths we hide from others, the truths we hide from ourselves, and even the truths that get buried throughout history. I said before that there’s a lot of character development in this series, but more specifically, every character has a hidden truth… Sometimes multiple… They they need to uncover within themselves in order to grow. An emotionless girl who’s been trained to be an athletic machine will be forced to realize that the only thing she truly cares about is beating her rival. A prideful overachiever will be devastated to realize there’s another plane of greatness she’ll never be able to reach. The goofball will realize just how much winning the competition meant to her, when she no longer has food or friends around to comfort her. You may train your best friend, only to be forced to acknowledge how much being better than them means to you when she starts to close in on you. Hell, the most dishonest character in the cast, Ling Pha, is arguably the only one who never really develops.
But the most important truth in the series, to me, is the one that rang true to me a few years ago. I’ve seen this series multiple times, and one of those rewatches happened when I was having trouble at work. I was slowing down, not really giving it my all, and after a while of it, I got called into the office. They asked me what was wrong, why I wasn’t producing results, and I said I didn’t know, claiming that I was busting my ass… Words I almost choked on, because even I knew they were bullshit. This all changed when I realized that I was doing the same thing Akari was doing. Whenever I was faced with a task that looked too difficult, I’d automatically accept that it was impossible, and I’d use that excuse to not try. I didn’t have a friend like Itchan to wake me up to this fact, but it was true, I was sabotaging myself, making excuses for failures that hadn’t happened yet. As soon as I realized this, I put a stop to it. I decided that no job was impossible, no matter how unreasonable. Ever since that day, I’ve never given up, I’ve never made excuses for myself, and I’ve continued to be employed as a result. It’s easy for a story to teach life lessons to kids, but when you can change the life and outlook of an adult viewer, there’s something special there.
Having said that, this series isn’t perfect. It has some flaws, and they go deep. There are constant logical derps… The true nature of the character Eric might have you pulling your hair out… But it’s biggest problem is it’s over-use of harmful and insulting stereotypes. The Russian girl is an emotionless machine, the Chinese girl is a dishonest cheater who’s always trying to sell stuff to people, the lesbian is a predatory lech who pays no regard to consent or mutual attraction(think the black girl from Pitch Perfect but not quite as bad), and the black girl… Holy shit, the black girl. Yeah, there’s a character here who’s from Africa, and her character is so racist that even Paula Dean would be insulted. She’s likeable, don’t get me wrong, but if this were an American cartoon, it would be one of the Censored 11. She runs around on all fours, uses her nose like a blood hound, is a “Natural runner,” and there’s an entire episode dedicated to her running around school in a tribal uniform, worshipping a totem god and painting everyone’s faces. There’s also a lot of lame jokes, such as the gimmick of a trio of hijackers, and… Okay, honestly, the whole episode that began the University Satellite arc kinda sucked.
It’s second biggest problem, right behind the racism issue, is the availability of the series. I mean, the lack thereof. Battle Athletes victory was available from Pioneer, which would eventually become Geneon, which would eventually go out of business. It’s been out of print for almost 20 years, and I can’t find any information about anybody trying to rescue it. If that’s not bad enough, the DVDs that it’s actually available on are pieces of shit, dated in all the worst ways. First of all, as I mentioned before, you only get the opening once per disk. That’s because it uses Dragonball Z’s marathon feature, only it’s not a feature, you don’t have a choice. Opening, three to four back-to-back episodes, closing. And the dubbers plastered white text over the opening instead of trying to avoid blocking the visuals. You can find these DVDs for fairly cheap online, and if you’re trying to get all 8 of them, you may even get lucky with a fifty dollar bundle on Ebay. The original OVA is also available stateside, but the manga is not. but seriously, if you’re reading this and actually have the right connections, PLEASE get this series rereleased. Discotek’s been into that kind of thing lately.
It’s not often that you hear about an anime changing someone’s life. They can turn you off from violence, help you to overcome prejudices, change your attitude towards your own life, make you appreciate your loved ones in new ways… Battle Athletes victory is a series that literally, tangibly changed my life, and I’m pretty sure I’d have lost my job and a significant portion of my livelihood without it. I won’t BS you by calling it a masterpiece, that’s not true… The visual quality is inconsistent, the logic isn’t always sound, it’s only black character is too much like Rob Schneider from The Animal, but if you’re able to get past all of that, this series is beautiful. It’s full of heart, has an undeniable passion for athletics and competition, and it’s always finding new ways to make you cry, without having to rely on any cliché modern day tragedy porn. There’s nothing manipulative about it, just genuine emotion and sincere sportsmanship. The sci-fi elements are also a blast, and while the final stretch may have jumped the shark a little too far… Even I’ll admit that… It’s very rarely unenjoyable, even then. It’s an obscure title, but it’s well worth the effort it’ll take to find it. I give Battle Athletes Victory an 8/10.
23: Clamp Gakuen Tanteidan
English: CLAMP School Detectives
MAL Score: 6.89
The CLAMP school, with its integrated curriculum from kindergarten to post-graduate studies, was founded by the largest of Japanese business empires, the House of Imonoyama. Funded entirely out of its own deep pockets, it was hoped that the school would be a haven for young men and women on whose shoulders our future would rest.
The School is open to any talented individual, irrespective of his or her lineage or financial standing and is known to count scores of singularly talented pupils. It is furthermore also famous for its harboring of a remarkable percentage of party animals. Not even the bright and talented minds of CLAMP School can keep the campus free of crimes and mysteries. Or can they? Join Nokoru, Suoh and Akira, our case-cracking kid detectives, as they save the day and even the odd damsel in distress!
(Source: Bandai Entertainment)
Now that you know let me start my review.
CLAMP Gakuen Tanteidan, or CLAMP School Detectives, is the story of three little investigators Nokoru, Suoh, and Akira, who are also members of the three-person elementary student council of their school.
I guess this has a good story but I didn’t see any goal in it. What do they want to happen? What are they trying to find? The only thing I see happening in this anime are there life and times inside the school. They beat bad guys up and discovers themselves after some time.
It has, fortunately, some exciting action. Kids beating up bad guys looks cool.
Storylines’ a bit(just a bit) lame but I give the art some praise. The drawings are very detailed and pretty advanced for its time. The hair-blowing is also pretty good.
Though I’m a guy I cannot resist saying… the characters are so cute and adorable.
The music is nice. The pretty sound of the singers’ voices are very likable. The opening and ending theme, however, is a letdown for me because it had nothing to do with the anime’s plot. Little boys and girls pausing beautifully for the audience.
Once fangirls see them screaming is unavoidable.
The characters are fair enough. Nokoru for me is the blonde eminence of Shuichi Minamino. Suoh is an all around serious character with a pure heart which kind of reminds me of CLAMP’s very own Li Shaoran who I like very much. Akira is adorable enough. I felt the girls never contributed anything except blow their pheromone all over Nokoru’s staff.
"I’ll give my life to this kindergartener." One of them said.
Enjoyment… I can’t explain much. I found the action very cool and the character design great. I did not like the storyline and romance though.
My overall score is 7 out of 10. This might not appeal much to hardcore fans but it’s perfect for kids or beginners.
The setting for this series revolves around this large school comprised of bout 10,000 students with many different divisions and many activities, academics, athletics, and just bout anything you can think of. Nokoru, Suoh, and Akira are the 3 main protagonists of the series and are also the lead council members of the elementary division. These three kids must solve many cases around the school of certain mysterious happenings, usually involving a damsel in distress.
Later on as you get a little further into the show, some of the main players of the series start to develop relationships with these elementary kindergarten females which is a nice touch, and the romance is not shown as true love which it shouldn’t be given the fact that these characters are pretty underage. But i do appreciate how each relationship with these two female casts grow as you get further in the show and they start to be a part of the clamp school detectives.
I think the strongest aspect of this show is the characters. The nice thing about the trio of protagonists is that they each bring something different to the show. Nokoru is the youngest son of the founders of the Clamp School and is essentially a prodigy in every sense of the word. Suoh is nearly as sharp as Nokoru, but where he lacks in the powers of observation he makes up for with his physical attributes. Akira is the youngest of the three. He’s a little more naïve, a better cook, and sees things more optimistically than his friends. They play off each other quite nicely and right from the very first episode they have a chemistry that easily carries the weight of 26 episodes.
At first glance i thought this would be a series that focuses more on like mysterious happenings and murder cases, because the first episode kind of gives you that impression, but really most of the cases they solve are trying to help some lady that is in trouble, because of the episodic nature of the show, each case involves a different scenario.
Although their is one particular plot in the show that takes place towards the end, the last 6 episodes with a more straightforward story and the introduction of a rather intriguing character. This story really caught my attention. It was much different then former episodic nature of the plot and a little more on a serous level, though the idea behind it was rather predictable, it still held my attention. Which i thought was really the only thing that redeemed this anime series as far as the simplistic progression of the story. Which is why i rated it a 6 and not lower.
If your a fan of clamp though, this series may be enjoyable, but if you have not seen other clamp works, i highly recommend you pass on this one and watch other great works from clamp. Other wise if you have nothing else to watch and are a clamp fanatic and want to watch every clamp in existence then give this one a shot as a last resort, then you may enjoy this series to an extent depending upon your tastes.
• Story – 9/10
In the first 20 episodes there isn’t a story. We follow the lives of three elementary school boys that happen to be in the Elementary School Council and are also (self-proclaimed) detectives. They – well, mostly their “leader”, Nokoru, wants to help all the ladies he sees in trouble. He doesn’t want to see any girl crying and is willing to do anything to help her. So the boys get in a lot of situations, some funny ones, some troublesome ones, and some actually dangerous ones. To achieve their goals they do things that real children aren’t able to do – that most people aren’t able to do, actually. In some episodes they actually have to solve cases, follow clues to find things, and they have the help of other characters, especially two girls from the school’s kindergarten. Those two girls are also supposed to be the romantic interests of two of the main boys, but of course, they are all children, so the “love” in this show is represented as the most pure thing in the world, and nothing is sexualized, in case there was someone worried about it.
Later in the series, the “villain” makes his appearance, so we have a more serious atmosphere and an actual plot.
• Art/Animation – 9/10
CLAMP 90s artstyle, it’s simply gorgeous. I don’t have much to talk about it, I just have a soft spot for oldschool art.
• Sound – 8/10
The soundtrack, all composed by Ali Project, isn’t very memorable, but it wasn’t bad at all; it did its job perfectly, fitting the show pretty well. The opening song is very catchy, and the endings were both good, especially the second one, but also not very memorable.
The voice actors were great at their roles, I have nothing to complain about them.
• Characters – 10/10
All of them have different personalities and are very likeable. Our protagonists are all children. Three boys at age 11~12; Nokoru Imonoyama, who is the president of the ESC, is a bit irresponsible, but very kind, and really cares for the people he loves, and for the whole CLAMP Academy; Suoh Takamura is the serious type, he really respects Nokoru but also gets really mad at the his lack of responsibility; and Akira Ijyuin, who is also the main character of the manga 20 Mensou ni Onegai!!, is the youngest one, he enjoys cooking and is probably the most childish of the three boys.
The two girls, Nagisa Azuya and Utako Ohkawa, are members of the Kindergarten School Council, they often help or are helped by the main boys.
Some characters from other CLAMP manga series make some appearances, like Kentaro, Takeshi, Eri and Sukiyabashi, from School Defenders Duklyon and Miyuki from Miyuki-chan in Wonderland.
Other characters usually show up in only one or two episodes.
• Enjoyment – 10/10
I loved it. I thought the manga was a good series to pass time, but nothing actually special, but I had a lot of fun watching the anime. It was really cute and amusing. Even though it’s mostly episodic, the cases never get boring.
• Overall – 9/10
If you are into light-hearted stories, isn’t worried about realism, and enjoy episodic series, I’d suggest you to give CLAMP School Detectives a shot!
22: Aa! Megami-sama!: Chichaitte Koto wa Benri da ne
English: Oh! My Goddess: The Adventures of Mini-Goddess
Japanese: ああっ女神さまっ 小っちゃいって事は便利だねっ
MAL Score: 6.90
A large collection consisting of the adventures of the Goddesses featured in the anime and manga series Ah My Goddess. Parodies of other works, and a large number of jokes pervade this series of shorts in which the Goddesses torture and hang out with their friend Gan the rat.
Story: 6 (Most issues evolve around Gan-chan)
Art: 7 (Same style as Ah! My Goddess)
Sound: 7 (All the sound FX you would expect in a comedy)
Character: 8 (Great idea putting support cast in main roles)
Enjoyment: 6 (Fairly funny for a kids comedy)
Overall: 3/50 = 6.6 = 6.0 (5 minutes of a fun show )
Mini Goddess is to Ah My Goddess as Tiny Toons is to Loony Tunes. Basically a chibi version of the goddesses Urd, Skuld, and Belldandy. They’re a lot funnier, cuter, and wacky compared to its normal counterpart. First off, you should know that Keiichi and Belldandy aren’t the main characters. Urd, Skuld, and a new character named Gan-chan are the main characters in this show. I especially like this since there is more screen time for Urd and Skuld. Belldandy is more of a supporting cast and its perfectly fine. It’s not a show to be taken serious since the episodes last around 5 minutes with a 2 minute ending theme song. With the limited time, the episode stories are all pretty much made up of "what if" episodes, parodies, silly situations, and afterthoughts. It almost feels like they were just making it up as they went, but thats just how the show is constructed. This puts a whole new spin on random sitcom anime with the only comparable show (that I know of) to this one is Tiny Toons. If you don’t know what that is feel free to search the internet. One episode said it best: "Why do you call it the adventures of mini-goddesses when all you guys do is mess things up." It’s so hilarious but true!
On a technical standpoint, the art and animation was perfectly fine. All kept in the same style of Ah! My Goddess style. But slight details will be left out to keep the characters in a chibi feel to them. Since this is a comedy in the simplest sense, the animation’s are mostly contrived of comical sight gags and limited frame rates. The visual issues are placed well enough to convince the viewers its for comical purposes. And it plays out pretty convincingly. The voice actors are kept all the same and still retain their greatness, and even the ending theme song is pretty cute although it never changes.
Some people might take a while getting used to Gan-chan as being one of the main characters. But after a while you will most likely end up getting used to him as he and the Goddesses get stuck in many silly situations. It’s obvious this is geared toward a younger audience, but people will still be able to find a few laughs in this show regardless of age. Even I had a few favorite episodes, but there are much more funnier shows than this. If you’re a big fan of Ah! My Goddess or if you enjoy silly comedy slapstic or even if you’re a big fan of Urd and/or Skuld, definitely give this show a shot. And don’t be fooled by the episode number, you can finish this whole show in about 4-6 hours time.
Chibi artwork hasn’t anything really exceptional. If you feel stressed and wants to be free from it, watch few episodes, they are really short. Perfect anime for casual times.
It mostly revolves around Gan-chan whom is a somewhat clumsy mouse who loves food. There’s no real main storyline it’s just a cute kid show.
The art is good but the same as the OVA.
It’s the common sound effects from any ordinary kids comedy show.
Cute, funny, and adventurous. Gan-chan was clumsy but pretty cool and Belldandy, Skuld, and Urd were the same as always.
It was 48 episodes long and it got really boring sometimes so it wasn’t all that great.
21: Gate Keepers
MAL Score: 6.94
Technology, science, and industry—this is 1969 Tokyo, and there is no better time to be alive! But a shadow looms quietly around every corner: “Invaders” have infiltrated the populace, and nobody knows who or what they are.
Only the members of the top-secret agency AEGIS know of their existence. Covertly fighting the enemy is their job, but only those with the ability to open “Gates” to another world can truly defeat them. Within AEGIS is a specialized task force known as the “Gate Keepers.” Composed of extraordinary individuals with a variety of Gate-related abilities, they are the only ones who can save humanity from the vicious Invaders plaguing the planet.
Shun Ukiya is an average high school student who lives with his widowed mother and little sister. While on his way home from school one day, he comes across a group of Invaders heading toward his house. In a desperate plight to save his family, Shun discovers he possesses the ability to open a Gate, allowing him to harness massive amounts of energy. With his newfound ability exposed, he catches the attention of AEGIS, and particularly the interest of one of its Gate Keepers, Shun’s childhood friend Ruriko Ikusawa.
The plot of Gate Keepers can be compared to old school anime, probably because the story is set in the 1960s. The only difference is that Gate Keepers has the feel of contemporary anime – it’s set in the 60s, but it doesn’t really seem like it is. It’s really exciting and fun to watch. Some historical references were actually incorporated into the story, such as the moon landing, the world expo and maybe even hippies.
Another aspect I like about it is the comedy. I can’t believe I didn’t realize it was so funny, but that’s probably because most of the comedy came from Reiko and Bancho – the 2 characters I USED to hate. All of the characters are actually very likable. My other favorites are Megane and Fei, because they’re both so adorable. I still like Kaoru and Shun though (Shun’s hot!)
As expected of Gonzo, the animation is really impressive. I love the character design except for Reiko’s because she seems different compared to the other characters. They all have beautifully drawn eyes though – I especially like how the eyes look when they use their gate powers. The CG wasn’t as sophisticated and smooth as I want it to be, but it wasn’t that bad. There were repeated scenes and usually I’d say that’s a sign of laziness, but it’s minimal.
Some of my favorite seiyuus are actually in Gate Keepers. One of them is Takahiro Sakurai. I always seem to like his characters (especially Cloud Strife from Advent Children!). The other is Tomokazu Seki. I just think he’s a really talented VA. Other seiyuus I want to note are Chinami Nishimura (Fei) and Etsuko Kozakura (Megane). They really made Fei and Megane really cute and adorable. I just love it when Fei goes “Ayaya!”.
The music was great as well. Like the story, the music reminds me of old school anime as well (specially the mecha ones) except they’re more updated. I really love how the opening theme was made – it really describes the plot so well. Sometimes you can catch the characters quoting some of the lyrics. The ending theme wasn’t bad either. Yumi Matsuzawa did a great job in performing both songs.
Just to finish this review, I’m going to reaffirm my first point by saying Gate Keepers is definitely a must watch. I’m going to try the OVA and see if it’s as good as the series.
As for the story it has comedic moments sprinkled throughout each episode and I feel like they generally mix very well with the situations at hand. There’s also a decent amount of actually incredible scenes that look fantastic and have great sound design; I love the sound of when they open a gate to use their abilities and then scream “GATE OPEN!” and even though it’s essentially the same thing every time it feels different depending of what’s going on and everything else and how the audio is mixed. It makes a lot of scenes feel really epic and I’d rewind and watch the sequence again because it seemed so cool however it doesn’t seem like it’s trying too hard to be cool or anything like that (at least not to me) and I feel like that’s why comes off really good and really kept me engaged with the show and wanting to continue watching.
The art and animation is pretty consistent throughout the whole show and how good the CGI is really took me by surprise. There was only one episode with a purple CG helicopter that was super bad but other than they did a heck of a job considering this was from the year 2000.
My favorite character was definitely Ikusawa, Ruriko or Rurippe as the nickname given to her by Ukiya, Shun which you will hear most of the time. Kawasumi, Ayako does a fantastic job voicing her and I love when she yells, perfect tone in comedic moments and intense moment and everything in-between. I also really liked Mei and how she’d say “Gate Open” and her powers in Chinese most of the time. Reiko seemed to be a little too much of an air-head but she still seemed to get some good moments and she cares for everyone and not just Ukiya. Kaoru to me felt too pushy to assert herself onto her Senpai Ukiya but I didn’t dislike her and she does get some great moments to shine throughout the series. I like how she transformers to use her powers by just whooshing off her normal clothes with her tracksuit underneath. The only character I didn’t like so much was Megumi which is kinda backwards for me since I generally really like the quiet ones with glasses. The different tensions with her still had impacts on the story and wasn’t meaningless even though she wasn’t very nice or anything. Finally for our main character Ukiya, Shun I’d say he’s actually likable. He does share some typical traits that you’d expect from a main character but there’s also more to him. He also has a couple really good character arcs that he goes through and you get to see him struggle.
If you happen to stumble across this show I highly recommend it, especially if you can still get the DVD’s for super cheap like I was able to. As for re-watching, I definitely will eventually and I still have the sequel OVA series to watch too which I will watch next out of the countless DVD’s and Blu-Rays that I have. I would’ve liked to see an HD remaster with PCM audio if they did it correctly/still had the original master but I’m not too concerned since the DVD’s still scale nicely. I’d say the average score for this show is an accurate assessment of how it’s score should be but I just had such a blast watching this and it felt really refreshing. Anyways, hope my review will be insightful for somebody!
Shun -: this is one of main and best Character . He is most super character .Shun father is dead and he is angry because he brakes his promise . He is Ruriko first love . He is strong gatekeeper in anime he fights as warrior.
ruriko – she is hot and my loving character. She has hidden emotion . she loves shun but she never reveals . she is ultimate fighter and with strong feelings .
Reiko Asagiri -: She is worst character . she thinks as good Witch ( meaningless) . Whenever she fights her instruments brakes . She has power of melodies . her tune kills invader .
Reiji Kageyama -: This is one of the best anime role . he is strong and powerful villan in anime . He thinks human are maggot . He is black gatekeeper
overall -: it is fantastic anime. Story is grate. It makes me remind of old school anime
20: Jinzou Ningen Kikaider The Animation
English: Android Kikaider
Japanese: 人造人間キカイダーTHE ANIMATION
MAL Score: 6.99
The genius robotics professor, Dr. Komyoji has created Jiro (who has the ability to transform into Kikaider) – a humanoid robot tasked with the protection of Dr. Komyoji’s son, Masaru, and daughter, Mitsuko. Gifted with a conscience circuit, which has the power to simulate real emotions that helps to distinguish between “right and wrong”, Jiro must protect Mitsuko and Masaru from the evil Dr. Gil who wants Jiro to join his army and aid in his goal of world domination.
The story of kikaider is about….well you can read the synopsis up there. Sound like your typical hero story but its so well told & a bit of twist at the end.
Art in the anime is old school meaning old astroboy like artwork since ishinomori sensei is one of student osamu tezuka had. I really like the artwork, its stay true to the original manga art & for those who think its ugly can suck it.
The music is very well done, the op is masterpiece and the ed is very nice, my favorite is the theme guitar for jiro~
Jiro is a great main character, for a superhero hes very innocent yet very charming. Hes development is very good and at the end of the series he is not the same guy(mature) at the start of the series.Other characters is also great, like the badass kikaider rival HAKAIDER which one of great villians in the anime. Mitsuko in the other hand is very motherly figure and very strong in harsh times, i really like her but her brother is very….whiny? Well his just a kid(not mature) but he did change at the end.
I really enjoy the heck out this anime. To toku/superhero fan is a must see and neutral give it a try, dont let the artwork fool ya. Oh, did i mention the animation is top notch?Less speedlines, still images & great action scenes.
We open with Doctor Komyoji working in his lab in a scene reminiscent of Frankenstein (pronounced Fronkensteen.) Meanwhile, his children are reading the story of Pinocchio, which I’m sure will not tie into anything that happens whatsoever. And if you buy that, I can sell you some prime subaqueous real estate for low, low prices. An explosion happens when he tries to bring his creation to life. His daughter discovers notes on what he was doing, trying to create a sentient android. Shortly afterwards, his children encounter Jiro, that selfsame android, and their adventures together begin.
My biggest problem with the series is the pacing. Jiro meets the siblings at the end of the first episode and then he takes off by the end of the second but we’re supposed to buy into the idea that they managed to really bond in that short time. They couldn’t have skipped the useless recap episode and just given us one to illustrate that bond before he gets driven off? Why is there even a recap episode in a thirteen episode series? Maybe because this series has a general issue with trite, lazy writing. The romantic sub-plot is another example. We have two characters who barely get to know one another before becoming romantically entangled. But it’s obvious that it’s going to happen because every event unfolds in precisely the most clichéd way possible.
But I can’t be too harsh on the series for that since the live action was made for children and it’s obviously trying not to age things up too much. Although it does go for a more teenage audience and probably should have put a bit more effort into the writing to reflect that.
I will give the series some credit for addressing difficult questions like “what makes a soul?” or “why is it important to feel things like sorrow?” And the series doesn’t address them badly, this isn’t Detroit. There’s an actual degree of competence to it. It still handles them in a kind of simplistic and non-challenging way, but it’s pretty adequate for the target audience.
There isn’t much to say about the characters in this. The protagonists are basic archetypes, the antagonists are pretty much evil for the evils with a few exceptions who they try to be sympathetic with, but they execute it in completely obvious, unimaginative ways. At least none of the characters are awful. The one who comes closest is Masaru because he’s the child character who’s there to get into sticky situations and yearn for attention. And that type of character is always annoying when written by the trope.
The artwork in this is just very low effort. If I hadn’t looked up basic information beforehand, I would’ve thought the anime was made maybe three years after the live action ended. It looks like an anime from the 70s with stiff movements, awkward facial expressions (with dull surprise being the most common emotion on display), a bunch of slow, panning shots and reused animation to cut down on costs. Did Radix have literally no budget for this or did they think that making it look like an old anime would be appropriate since it’s based off of an old show?
If the series had wanted to pay homage to old anime by using the general art style, I’d be fine with that. I think you could make it look good. Osomatsu-san managed that pretty well. But when you include all the lazy, cost cutting tropes all you do is make it look horrendously outdated. And give the impression that you decided that quality was just too expensive to bother with.
The actors get into the spirit of the series pretty well. They have those somewhat over the top, bombastic performances that are so commonplace in those tokusatsu series like Kamen Rider or Super Sentai. Which I’m completely okay with although maybe Kikaider is more subtle and this aspect really annoyed the fans. I haven’t seen the live action, so I don’t know. They got some pretty strong people for this as well. Like Horie Yui. Kosugi Juurouta & Seki Tomokazu. Wada Kaoru’s music is pretty good. Maybe not as strong as what he did for 3×3 Eyes, but still good.
There is none to be found.
Areas of Improvement:
1. Replace the Recap episode with an episode between the first and second. Like I said, Jiro’s dynamic with the siblings doesn’t work particularly well as is and I think you could greatly improve it by giving us even one episode to build it up.
2. Remove the romantic sub-plot. Honestly, it adds nothing of value and it’s poorly executed. You might as well just let the characters develop a strong friendship instead of adding pointless romance.
3. Give the animation some budget. Like I said, having a modern anime with a 70s style can be good. Having one with all the shitty, cost-cutting measures and such included is always going to look bad.
Jinzou Ningen Kikaider is not a bad anime. Yeah, it has some serious problems but, ultimately, they’re problems that don’t make it difficult to watch or annoying. They’re problems that lead to it being bog standard and a bit dull. Which is what we end up getting. A series that’s predictable, not very compelling and just very mediocre. Which is why I give it a 5/10 If you’re a huge fan of live action Sentai shows and the more solo-oriented variety like Kamen Rider you might have a grand time with this in spite of the various issues. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth your time.
19: Kachou Ouji
English: Legend of Black Heaven
MAL Score: 7.00
Oji Tanaka has a wife, a child and a mundane job as a salary man in Tokyo’s modern society. But life wasn’t dull for him to begin with; 15 years ago, he was known as “Gabriel”, leader of a short-lived heavy metal band called Black Heaven. Oji’s life gets a sudden change in direction when he is invited by a mysterious blonde woman named Layla to pick up his Gibson Flying V and once again display his “legendary” guitar skills, not knowing that his music generates power for a massive weapon in an intergalactic war.
Story: I can honestly say that while the story is beyond a doubt a very original creation, it does lack some polish. Some events in the story take place much to slowly (around the beginning especially) but by the end of it, the writers get it right and you’re trying desperately to find the next episode to find out what happens. Don’t worry if the first few are a little bland, you’ll thank yourself by the end.
Art: Art is perhaps the one field where Black Heaven really falls short. Now don’t get me wrong, some of the space scenes are done in a very impressive CG and they look amazing! Unfortunately the reason they do look so good is that most of the artwork is nothing more than average. You won’t find anything really special in this department either, but it’s not so bad as to distract from the fun.
Sound: AMAZING! <— The one word that really describes the sound and the soundtrack for Black Heaven. The fact that the story centers around a band, and the fact that music is an extremely integral part of the Anime makes the sound even better. While character development and action may be the most important and cause some of the most heart wrenching moments in other Animes, Black Heaven’s music will make you cry, laugh, and rock on! To put this into perspective, the first ever OST I downloaded was this one, and I love it.
Character: Both Oji and Layla are very memorable characters for me. I loved it whenever they were on screen, even more when they were both on. Oji (AKA Gabrielle) makes it possible to love this series; his transformation from depressed cubical dweller to rock god is shown amazingly.However most of the other characters, while either interesting or pleasant, didn’t leave me with lasting memories of them.
Enjoyment: Again Black Heaven ranks very highly for enjoyment. This is a direct result of Oji and his great music. There will be times early on when it seems to drag, but these don’t last very long. Layla’s assistants also do a great job of putting in comic relief every time you see them. Personally, I enjoyed it even more the second time around.
Overall: I give it an 8/10. I was tempted to give it an even higher mark but I know I shouldn’t. This Anime is not perfect, nor will you mistake it for being one. But despite all of it’s flaws it has a little bit of magic to it. A magic that you will feel every time Gabrielle strums his guitar. Honestly the music in it makes it a must see, or at least a must hear. (I wanted to give sound a 11/10 but they wouldn’t let me)
All of which brings us to the anime in question, Kachou Ouji (Black Heaven). A show about a nine-to-five schmuck going through a midlife crisis, who, through a series of ridiculous events, is pleaded by a blonde bombshell from outer-space to save the world by picking back up his musical instrument. With his guitar playing skills becoming the only way to protect mankind from annihilation, a life defined by decades of tedium has finally been reinvigorated. This is the tale of a former rock star who ended up cutting his blossoming career prematurely to raise his family. A decision that led him into the cubicle-space hivemind, beating away at his keyboard day in and day out in order to bring bread to the table. With nothing to look forward to but heaps of paperwork and business seminars, this otherworldly woman offers him an escape from his vapid lifestyle; a man past his prime given a second chance at what he loves. And in the process of playing his music to save humanity, he also—you guessed it—rekindle the fleeting youth of his glory days.
If you haven’t guessed by now, the story and premise of Black Heaven is not just literal, but also allegorical. It externalizes the inner turmoil that our protagonist is going through, creating a metaphysical environment that allows us as viewers the chance to examine him in the process. Its narrative structure and motifs are similar to that of other abstract works like FLCL (Fooly Cooly) and Abenobashi. While being nowhere as bombastic or eccentric as FLCL, it similarly handled the protagonist’s midlife crisis to how FLCL handled its coming-of-age themes. With rock ‘n’ roll and the guitar being used as a motif to embody that youthful spirit and unkempt sexuality, what is seen on the surface is only as important as what they truly represent in our protagonist’s life. This lends itself to several innuendos, some subtly surfacing to the foreground while others are shamelessly on-the-nose. Black Heaven is all about guided interpretation. Where some shows with this narrative structure may have some semblance of ambiguity as to what they’re alluding to, Black Heaven is very upfront about what it represents, taking no detours to beat around the bush.
Black Heaven is far from your typical anime outing, and perhaps no defining feature best establishes that than its targeted demographic itself. It should come as no surprise that a majority of anime is aimed at teens to young adults. Black Heaven’s sense of humor and situational awareness is, first and foremost, directed towards older adults (which should be a no-brainer given the subject matter). It’s an anime that thematically has more in common with Oscar-winner Crazy Heart than it does anything found in the medium’s usual canon.
It’s not something that’s trying to be gut-wrenchingly funny or instantaneously gratifying either, as it instead decides to draw humor and intrigue from relatable, commonplace issues that come with adulthood and all that it entails. It’s a show that approaches the ordinary through a warped lens, never letting the growing pains of everyday life slip pass it. It’s humorous because you “get it.” You “get” the frustration that comes standard when dealing with an overbearing boss. You “get” how being caught up in the work environment could place distance in your social life, as well as your imitate relationships. You “get” how daily responsibilities can often strong-arm you into placing your hobbies on the back-burner. You “get” what our protagonist Oji Tanaka is going through, and in the process, chuckle at it, having experienced similar things yourself. And even if you haven’t found yourself facing the same dilemmas firsthand, you’ve possibly seen this occur with your parent/guardian(s) in retrospect. If you’re old enough to grasp these troubles, it’s easy to appreciate the show’s endearment and honesty in depicting the growing pains of being a worker-ant and family man.
While most of Oji’s problems were played up for comedic effect, there’s still a general sense of pity draped over his situation. Here’s a man unsatisfied with the status quo of his home-life to such an extent that there’s a rift forming between him and his loved ones. With a son whom he feels alienated from and a marriage just going through the motions, Oji is at the end of his proverbial rope, dangling with nothing left but memories of his youth. And as surreal as the concept may get at times, the humanistic endeavors remain down to earth.
The mundane meet surrealism, comedy meet sobering reality—Black Heaven juggles them simultaneously, resulting in Oji’s journey being a roller coaster ride of failure and triumph. At one minute you’re snickering at his misfortune, and by the next, you’re rooting for his success. And while other named characters occasionally get screen-time, the story remains Oji’s, and Oji’s alone. It’s his woes; everyone else is just along for the ride.
And really, at the end of the day, that’s all the show needed to do. There’s just something inherently intriguing about viewing someone else’s plight. We never want to be at the receiving end of these troubles, but seeing others work through theirs always manages to command viewer attention.
And to keep that attention, the show straddles our lead with a few companion characters. One of which is the extraterrestrial-bombshell mentioned earlier, Layla Yuki. Apart from our protagonist, Layla receives the most screen presence throughout the show. With a compelling mystique and sultry demeanor, it doesn’t take much for her to honey-trap Oji into submitting to her whims. She encompasses an innate desire, a type of sensuality that could only be birthed from unbound sexual freedom; which makes her not only a pivotal character but a symbolic presence as well. She’s the embodiment of Oji’s bachelor days, free of marriage, of parental duties, of responsibility. His desire for her is a desire for his former self, which ties into an unspoken real-life truth for a reason men of his age often cheat with women still at the prime of their youth. Yes, there’s a sexual urge present, but the motivating agent on a subconscious level is often just wanting to feel “young” again.
Aside from her, we’re also introduced to a ditzy comedic trio (names irrelevant) who operate similarly to that of The Three Stooges. They often lend their assistance, whether it was requested of them or not, and usually end up being more trouble than they’re worth. Despite serving no further purpose beyond their hijinks as comedic reliefs, they were a welcome addition to the show. This also extends to the other side characters as well. They don’t demand your attention, but their inclusion was still well-received. They breathed life into the situations that they were a part of and contributed in their own little way to making Oji’s expedition one that was far more wholesome than had it been a one-man show.
Another aspect that adds to this journey is without question the music selection. Given that the show chronicles the life of a former rock star, a proper opening theme was in order. And what better way to get each episode kickstarted than by having the intro song be performed by John Sykes, a writer for the rock band Whitesnake and former guitarist for Thin Lizzy. The song “Cautionary Warning” from Sykes’s 1997 album, 20th Century, served just the right amount of spunk and bravado needed to get you pumped up for each new episode. With a snarling cadence that could only be delivered by a veteran with experience in his craft and a guitar riff that’s toe-tappingly infectious, the opening song is a love-letter provided by Sykes, boasting all the tricks he’s acquired over his luxurious 30+ years performing in the music industry.
Almost serving as a counterbalance to the electrifying opening, the closing track is a bubblegum pop number with hints of jazz and funk undertones. It’s cute in a way that befits Black Heaven’s warped sense of style and humor.
But even after factoring in everything going for it, there are still many issues that plagued this anime. For one, despite the strength of the standout musical tracks, the actual musical selection was insufficient; often reincorporating an instrumental version of the opening theme for whenever the protagonist picks up his guitar. While the gradual progression of the song along with Oji’s own progress in the show was a nice touch, the sheer amount of times the song was used did nothing but lessen its “pizzazz” as it continued onward. There are a few other accompanying tracks sparsely scattered throughout the show’s run-time, but they were mostly drowned out by the Cautionary Warning tune’s repetition.
Unfortunately, this cut-rate mentality didn’t stop there, as it also affected the visual presentation for Black Heaven. It’s below average, even by the standards of late 90s animation. Reused sequences were often implemented whenever it was possible, and outside of a few keyframes demonstrating some semblance of quality, still-frames were often used to cut corners. On top of that, the character designs are widely inconsistent or reduced to misshapen blobs if they’re in the mid-ground or further away. “Shoestring budget” is what immediately comes to mind when discussing Black Heaven’s production value. This isn’t one of those cases where you could make the counterargument of “it’s supposed to look cheap.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see Black Heaven wasn’t high on the Studio heads’ priority list.
Outside of presentation issues, the show lacked screenplay polish that could have been tightened up with a script revision. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given the chaotic state of the presentation at times. Where it’s forgiven is the fact that the premise doesn’t go to waste despite the blemishes spotted upon initial viewing. Some things just needed to be trimmed down a little more to allow for a better flow in the narrative.
Despite these shortcomings, Black Heaven never felt bogged down by any of it; in fact, it could be argued (by some) that a few of these imperfections added to the show’s charm. But that’s more a matter of subjective preference than impartial assessment. It could have been assembled better but isn’t handicapped by these drawbacks. What it lacked in pristine visuals, diverse sound selection, and a tighter script, it more than made up for with a sense of integrity and commitment to its tale.
Black Heaven was born out of the need to tell one story, Tanaka Oji’s story, and by extension, teach us to live life to the best of our capabilities; finding happiness regardless of the hand we’re dealt.
If you take the general storyboarding of American Beauty, add a dash of absurd allegorical visuals of Fooly Cooly, and filter it through a similar comedic lens of that of Welcome to the NHK, what you’d get is this humorous Japanese-salaryman monstrosity. Black Heaven was quite the surprise for me. Despite its humble offerings, Oji and company always manage to find a way to keep me entertained. And even when it played things out comically, the adult subject matter was always handled with a sense of responsibility.
Cheeky, charming, funny, and oddly enough, sobering, Black Heaven is a title that teaches us to find the silver lining, even during times when we find ourselves in a depressing slump.
It’s not something that’s going to blow your mind with groundbreaking revelations, nor is it a grandiose tale to defend earth (despite what the immediate premise alludes to). Where Black Heaven shines is in its commitment to telling a man’s intimate struggle with no need for party tricks to keep the attentiveness of the viewer. It remains a small-scale identity crisis only inflated in relevance by the protagonist that’s going through it. Where other titles would topple over with such self-imposed constraints, Black Heaven uses this very limited range as the driving force behind its narrative. It treats its audience with respect, trusting that they’re mature enough to understand the intentions. There are not that many shows out there that could dare to do the same, and while a bit rough around the edges, its heart was in the right place. And for if only for that reason alone, Black Heaven has effectively become a mainstay among my cherished favorites.
Not that the space opera plot really matters that much. The super weapon runs on roughly the same energy that the robots in Gurren Lagann ran on, except this time it requires guitar playing to transform said spirit (which Black Heaven calls ‘groove’) into energy to run the weapon. We’re never given any reason why they’re fighting or who they’re fighting. One of my running theories throughout the series was that this was all in the main characters head. The anime itself kept to the theme that this was all a dream, never crossing the boundary between the real world and the space battles.
What purpose the space guitar playing battles really serve is a big metaphor for the lead characters mid life crisis. For everything that happens in the space battle zone, there’s a clear correlation between what’s going on in his head and the real world. The realisation that nobody really cared about the songs he was playing in the spaceships was a metaphor for how he had gotten so wrapped up in trying to create a spark in his mid life that he hadn’t realised how his head was totally in the clouds. The numerous sexual metaphors connected to escaping to play his guitar, while played for comedy pretty frequently, correlated to how he wanted to escape his whiny wife and unsatisfying home life.
Black Heavens greatest achievement is that it manages to keep both the general story and the metaphors great fun to watch throughout. Purely on the surface level, Black Heaven is still an incredibly fun anime. The characters all have clear personalities and flawed in their own ways. The failing marriage of Oji and his wife has no clear person you’re meant to side with. There’s a panic and fear surrounding the women when she realises that their marriage is failing and he might be off with another women, but she struggles so hard to understand his passion that it’s understandable how Oji wants to create a spark in his life with this metaphorical mistress of space guitar playing. Oji is a hugely flawed character himself, prone to frequent feelings of elation and depression. One of the parts I really liked about Black Heaven were how the most extreme moments in his emotions were set inside the ramen stall. It was the one place he could visit and be himself without the show ever actually saying that itself.
There’s so many little things I love about this anime. The growing relationship between Oji and his son, where at the beginning he knew nothing about him to Oji becoming the dads idol. The kids TV show Flying 5 constantly providing indirect commentary to what was going through Oji’s mind at the time. The way the show never lost its sense of humour, whether it be through the hilarious sight of middle aged office workers trying to fit a bass guitar over their ever-expanding bellies to the occasional yet rather liberal use of fanservice throughout the show (bunny girl press-ups spring to mind). It’s a story of identity crisis wrapped up in a Heavy Metal Macross package.
It’s far from perfect and I’m not so blind as to suggest otherwise. Made in 1999, the animation isn’t particularly good even for its time. The animation is pretty fluid but has a tendency to re-use frames a hell of a lot and far away shots of characters can often give them misshapen heads. The anime has a single utterly awesome theme song that it uses the entire way through the show. While this does add a lot when you hear how the song evolves throughout, it does start to get a bit much as it goes on. The comic relief trio don’t do an awful lot for the plot either and can sometimes take up time being not very funny.
My biggest complaint though is how I felt it started to lose sight of the balance it created between the real world and the space opera right at the end. I get what it was going for and how Oji had come to terms with this dream by the end, but I felt it didn’t quite get the balance right the same way the rest of the series did. Even so, Legend of Black Heaven is one of the greatest anime I have ever seen, just in case that big fat 10 mark hadn’t given away that already 😉
18: Street Fighter II V
English: Street Fighter II: The Animated Series
Japanese: ストリートファイターII V
MAL Score: 7.05
Ryu and Ken Masters are close friends and both are martial artists. In order to become better fighters and learn new techniques, they travel the world and are exposed to many different fighting styles, as well as meeting new people. During their journey, they find themselves caught up in a conspiracy perpetrated by a mysterious organisation called Shadowlaw, both now face their ultimate challenge and must fight for their lives as they combat the evil M. Bison.
Some of the character design has been changed and is not what you’re used to. Ryu tends to look more like Ryo Hazuki from Shenmue except without his jacket, and his trademark bandana is not at all present. But it’s not the bandana that defines the man, it’s the man that defines the bandana, but in place of the bandana, Ryu wears a rosary given to him by a girl who worked with him at the island. Ken’s design is faithful to the game design. Guile’s haircut isn’t really that exaggerated. Chun Li is really cute, but doesn’t have her hair buns. But even if they are changed, they are still recognizable and I feel that this adds it’s own dose of originality. Afterall, this is Street Fighter II V, it doesn’t have to be the game to be great sometimes. The Animated Movie already served that purpose. However, my main beef with the art is of course is how the guys look like they’re on as much steroids as a pro wrestler.
The action is just superb. It’s nothing over the top by relying too much on the fireballs or other trademark moves, it’s pure raw martial arts high-octane action. Granted it’s not to the technical and dramatic level of the movie, but it does have it’s own sense of intensity and style that stands out. It’s really expressive in its own way and tells a story of what the fighters are fighting for, and how they’re struggling. The characters’ fighting styles are well represented in the series such as Guile’s experience, Ken and Ryu’s power and speed, and Chun Li’s agility. So fans will not be disappointed and those not familiar to Street Fighter will still be amazed regardless.
This anime can be viewable in both Japanese and English. The English cast is very good. Ryu is portrayed as someone that is young, but yet mature and serious. Ken is portrayed as a guy who likes to mess around at times, and Guile sounds like a seasoned veteran. So the actors play their roles in a way that you expect to play them in. And naturally, I will know more and tend to favor the Japanese cast if you are at all familiar with my reviews. The Japanese cast, like the English cast, do their roles the way you expect them to do it. For seiyuu buffs, Ryu is played by Tsujitani Kouji, the voice of Miroku in Inuyasha, Seabook Arno from Gundam F91, and Bernie Wiseman in Gundam 0080. Chun Li is played by Yokoyama Chisa who is also famous for Sasami in Tenchi, and Sakura in Sakura Taisen. And believe me, seiyuu buffs maybe don’t want to miss this one. Though you may like the Japanese voices better, the English voices, though not as big named as the Japanese cast, you have to give credit for doing their roles with accuracy to the personalities of their characters.
The music is also an awesome addicting trait this anime has. Unfortunately, the DVD set that I have released by Manga entertainment took out the Japanese themes which were in the subtitled VHS releases, but still keeps the weird Eastern esque techno songs which are pretty cool, but it also hurts what also defines anime by promoting great lyrical songs such as the opening theme Kaze Fuiteru, and Cry, the ending theme. Both songs are very energetic and inspirational and go along to those themes of the anime.
All I can say is, whether or you’re not you’re a Street Fighter fan, this is worth a shot. The story is a bit generic, but I still call it short being cliché. I mean, this starts out as a story about having fun, facing reality, conquering your fear, discovering yourself, and saving the world. But even though I describe the nature with negative labels, I feel I can describe this in a positive way that it does flow one step at a time, and the characters, at least the good guys, have excellent development, though it’s what you expect in martial arts media in addition to great action.
The premise of this anime revolves around Ryu and Ken’s characters, who are 17 year olds btw. While training in Japan, Ryu receives a letter from Ken containing a plane ticket for the US, some money and the words "come to America" written in the letter. After giving it some brief thought, he decides to visit Ken. Upon arriving in the states, he is happy to have met ken after years and he is overwhelmed by Ken’s luxurious lifestyle (yes, ken is very rich as expected). From this point onwards, the infamous duo get up to a lot of mischief, leading to major fist fights in a bar where they are confronted with a strong rival (I will not state the name of the character because it will spoil it for you). The conclusion of the fight motivates them to travel the world in pursuit of highly skilled warriors so that they can put their skills to the test in order to find out who the strongest fighter in the world is. The overall story has a nice flow to it and I am sure you will enjoy it.
To my amazement, the art was quite good. Please note that Ryu and Ken do not look like they do in the SF games so do not be disappointed when you find that their appearance is completely different. In my opinion, they were drawn very well and the fight scenes were nicely executed. The same applies to the rest of the characters.
I was expecting the anime to have music themes from the SF game, so I must say that this was quite a big disappointment for me 🙁 Even so, the sound effects were good enough for the show but I think they could have easily included the original themes from the game which IMO would have improved the sound aspects of the anime considerably and would have probably received more of a fan base.
OK, first of all the chemistry between all the characters were quite strong. It is easy to see for instance the brotherly relationship between Ryu and Ken, so this was one of the strong points in terms of their characters. However, some of the dialog was quite corny and out of place at times but this is not a big deal. Also, for all you SF fans out there who are yet to watch this show, these are the characters that star in the show (other than Ryu and ken). Chun-Li, Guile, Balrog, Dhalsim, Cammy, Vega, Furlong, Nash aka Charlie, Sagat, M-Bison. If I have missed out any characters, then accept my apologies. Akuma does appear in the show but only as cameos so be warned that he does NOT have an active role in the show.
I found this anime to be fairly enjoyable. The story, character development, chemistry, fight scenes together with the overall presence to the show makes this a worthwhile watch. Overall, I score this anime 7/10. I must confess that I score quite strictly so a 7/10 for me may perhaps be an 8 for you. I am not sure but regardless of my score, I suggest that you watch this one especially if you are a SF fan. It is definitely worth a watch.
Unfortunately, Street Fighter 2V really dropped the ball in my opinion. I had already seen Street Fighter get two butchered adaptations, so I really wanted this version to actually stay true to the story of the games and the personality of the characters. It isn’t like Street Fighter was a literary masterpiece, but if you want to change everything about the plot and characters, then why bother adapting Street Fighter? Why not just make your own series with your own characters? Ryu is always dead serious in the games and never smiles…not….once! In the anime they turned Ryu into a Goku clone who is absolutely giddy that he gets to fight the next strong opponent and beat him up. Bison was always portrayed as a military mastermind who was like a mix between Napoleon and a 3rd world dictator with super powers. Yet in the anime, he takes his orders from a magical statue! Bison don’t take shit from anyone! They turned Street Fighter into the Jacky Chan cartoon! It only gets worse. Instead of Vega and Sagat being Bison’s 2 henchmen, the anime copied the American movie and made Zangief Bison’s main minion. Why is this a problem? EVERY LINE Gief says is Russia this and Russia that. He is a diehard patriot that even invites Gorbachev to his victory if you beat the game as him. Why would he work for Shadowloo, who is at war with Russia? Zangief is stupid as shit, but he is NOT supposed to be evil, let alone a traitor to his country! They completely murdered his character! They try to pass Guile off as a legit badass with no tongue in cheek or comments about “taking care of your family”. What is worse, he doesn’t do the sonic boom. Not once. That’s like the ONLY move he has! Yet the anime wanted to create a bullshit rule in which only Ryu and Bison can use Ki attacks. What the fuck? At least they didn’t make Balrog a computer hacker who types while wearing boxing gloves for no reason. I guess 2V is still slightly less silly than the American cartoon. However, in retrospect at least the US toon was so stupid it’s funny. Street Fighter 2V is mostly just boring.
So you think you know bad 90s anime art right? You’ve seen recycled animations, lazy use of still shots and key frames with a ridiculously low number of frames per second. You may not have seen animation quite as lazy as Street Fighter 2V. I mean this shit actually stands out as notably bad by even the low standards of 90s anime OVAs. At least the 2V movie looked awesome. It wasn’t a good movie by any means, but the animation looked spectacular!
If you grew up playing Street Fighter as a kid, or if you are younger and are simply curious about cheesy, old anime, you owe it to yourself to watch a few episodes of this show. At least you might get a few laughs. I’m still going to give it a fairly generous score because I REALLY liked the Street Fighter games and this was still amusing for me despite its…flaws. Street Fighter 2V gets a 5 out of 10.
17: Dual! Parallel Lun-Lun Monogatari
English: Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure
MAL Score: 7.09
Kazuki Yotsuga is your regular average nerd in high-school, except he isn’t smart. He has this website which relates to his visions that only he can see. His vision’s are about robots who keep fighting each other battle after battle. One day he is sent to a, “parallel world” where these visions exist and he joins a company to fight back against the devious RaRa, who want to take over the world.
I know it’s a flameworthy summation, but it’s true. It’s a not-very-well-disguised clone of the series with some harem aspects. For christ’s sake, the annoying, overbearing chick who’s secretly into the protag even runs around in a red mech. You cant buy that kind of blatancy. But what does it have that NGE doesn’t? Why a protag that you ACTUALLY like. Or, at the very least, you don’t hate him for bitching and moaning every three seconds and masturbating to comatose girls!
(wow, didn’t even get through the first paragraph without mentioning that. a new low XD)
Okay, now that i got that little bit out, story time!!
The show centers around a boy named Kazuki Yotsuga, a regular dude(don’t they all, though) who everyone at school laughs at because he keeps seeing these giant mechs fighting in the street. He sees this so frequently he’s even started a little website where he chronicles what he sees. Well it all goes tails up for him when the school queen, Mitsuki Sanada shows an interest in the boy, telling him that she believes that he sees these things. More importantly her father believes him too. He has a theory about there being a parallel world with events and a time line similar to theirs, and that Kazuki has the unique ability to peer into it. Since this is an anime the Professor immediately straps the poor schmo into the deus ex teleporter he already had made up, complete with comfy chair and arm straps, and BAM!! Kazuki is now in the other world.
He soon meets up with the Mech he is always seeing in his psychotic episodes and, through serendipity and overly obvious plot devices, he ends up piloting it; defeating the generic mech it’s pilot, now unconscious, was fighting. It is through here that young Kazuki learns that he is in the other world when he runs home to find that his parents have no idea who he is(NOT when he was piloting the mech he’s seen so many times in his hallucinations that he’s actually given it a name… which i am not even going to TRY and pronounce, let alone spell. i just started calling it “Harpsichord”). Eventually he is swept up by the Giant Mech Military, ran by this Earth’s version of the loon who sent him there(just go with it), because he is the only male who has ever been able to pilot a mech, previously only women could for some reason. He soon runs into Mizuki, who decided to follow after him into the Chair of Spatial Impossibility shortly after he disappeared but got there a month earlier for some reason(SCIENCE!!!), and she turns out to be a mech warrior as well, along with the ‘Rei’ character of the story who is actually explained in the first appearance as an alien-clone-robot-thing.
you read that right, they ACTUALLY flat-out told you that she was a alien clone-robot-thing instead of making it painfully obvious but never even really alluded to in the bulk of the story. And she’s a very interesting character, i always liked Tabula Rasa characters, their humor may be obvious(i.e. when looking for a character who ran away they tend to look in the trashcan for some reason) but they’re always enjoyable and usually give me a smile.
And all this brings up a really important point, why the crap can only children pilot giant mechs of death? does puberty not compute with the OS or something? but at least this show altered that a bit, the pilot originally controlling Harpsichord was 23, so at least there was that.
After the establish the main cast the episodes went kinda basic, they met the Team Rocket-inspired villain who seems more concerned about the the spectacle of invading rather then the actual winning of the battle. The also have all the old songs of anime here: They go to school, everyone is jealous of/hating on the protag because the school queen is always hanging around him, everyone wants a piece of him, there’s a stray dog somewhere along the line that the alien-clone-robot-tabula rasa-Priscilla: Queen of the Desert grows attached to. It doesn’t really try to push any boundaries as a show, its more like the people who created the story were given a big box of what all anime before it did and was told to pick two good concepts to play with and three bad concepts to try and fix and to make a show out of those 5 things and they said ‘to piss with that’ and took the whole box and ran with it.
And, to me, that’s not a bad thing. It’s a good view if you’re bored off your rocker and want to just enjoy yourself for 12 episodes. There’s nothing really to take away from it in the end, but is that really a bad thing? Eva tried shoehorning some depth into itself near the end and it turned into one of the few shows that i stop watching before the last 4 eps.
also: congratulations for actually reading through this horribly paced, segueing nightmare. kudos, reader. kudos
Neon Genesis Evangelion, as for story goes there probably stuff that didn’t make sense but i didn’t care much. overall it was enjoyable despite the outrageous storyline, its one of those anime where you’re enjoy it or not.
overall as for animes goes, its more watchable than some other animes, like for example..Gate Keepers.. which didn’t make f**k sense to me. but then again, someone might not think Dual Parallel makes any sense. well at least its a “happy” anime.
NTS: Picked this anime series up from a random isekai related recommendation post on reddit. Didn’t expect much from this series considering it was an older mecha series (they tend to have basic plot progression and characters), and I watched unironically oblivious to the Evangelion parody. Despite being a fairly basic plot structure and generic harem character palette, this series was actually fairly interesting to watch. Let’s get into why!
We are given an immature, pre-prepubescent nerd that is able to see large mecha fight and destroy his surroundings without affecting his world; thanks to the opening scene with a mysterious artifact that most likely split the interaction with it into two different worlds (like a butterfly effect) Nonetheless, this teen male picks up a popular, high in demand chick who seems interested in him till he meets her old man, a mad scientist – Long story short he finds himself in the dystopian parallel world as a result of the ancient artifacts. His job in the parallel world is to draw an end to the war as soon as possible so that both worlds experience peace (also to stop his mecha hallucinations).
My thoughts on the series:
I felt that despite trying to stay exclusive to the mecha genre, this series fails to develop a structured narrative by the end of 13 episode (I didn’t bother watching the special) It is a debatable claim however, I really wasn’t grasping a powerful narrative apart from the ‘save both worlds’ mindset – Not the worst but not innovative especially considering it relies on mecha and similar human figured robots to develop the plot. As such, I will be rating this series a fair 7/10 in terms of plot.
Art & Sound:
1999, a fairly well aged series in terms of animation and music. I enjoyed the main theme that played in between key events in the series but that was about it, most of the music played were fairly generic – Art style to me was fairly average especially for the date it was made in. As such, a generous rating of 6/10 will be given for art & sound.
In terms of character development, I’d say all of the side characters as well as the FMC (female main character) had most of the major changes in this series. All the female characters in the harem have more power individually over the MC even at the end of the series – This is fairly ironic considering MC is the person that shines in his mecha on the battlefield. Not a fan of this but atleast it didn’t dwell on fan service such as other known mecha series.
I’d rate this series a 6/10 in terms of character development, not the best but definitely well needed improvement in character development for the MC .
I was fairly discouraged in the first half of the series because I felt the plot was intentionally being forced to progress – It happened quite fast this way which is why I wasn’t as emotionally connected to the characters. Nonetheless the ending definitely didn’t disappoint seeing everyone in a good mood is a better ending than a series that kills off characters for ‘plot progression’. As an older series, I’d say there needs to be a higher threshold for leniency because most of the mecha plots weren’t innovative or unique, so I’d rate this series a solid 8/10 in terms of enjoyment, beginning started off a bit rushed but was on the right track and entertaining by episode 6/7.
Art & Sound: 7/10
16: Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran
English: Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Ran
MAL Score: 7.12
In the Edo or Tokugawa period (1600–1868), Ran, a female wandering samurai whose skill with the katana is only matched by her taste for sake (rice wine), is joined by a chinese martial artist who calls herself Lady Meow of the Iron Cat Fist. Tsukikage Ran has individual episodes that are just short stories of their adventures.
So people look for things that are just plain fun to watch, like those Jackie-Chan movies. Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran delivers just that, in its short glory.
–Grade: 7, + 1 extra point for great characters and enjoyment: 8–
The show greets its viewers with a traditional Japanese styled song, instead of what the viewers usually expect. Even the presentation of the opening is a reminiscence of old Japanese TV series, and it goes together with the series really well, taking the series’ setting and mood into consideration.
The OST itself isn’t anything amazing, but it does its job well without getting in the way.
The animation is what you can expect out of a TV series at the time, and it does take a big dip in comedic parts. However, the director, Daichi Akitaro, is pretty skilled in making the most of it until he can bring out his trump card: action scenes. His action scenes are amazingly fast paced and wonderfully choreographed, bringing out the best in the characters. Why can’t real sword fights be this cool?
The main characters are tastefully designed and are very attractive. They spare Meow the stereotypical Chinese double bun and the verbal tic of aru, which is nice. Ran looks graceful and pretty, but looks formidable enough to be taken seriously. Unfortunately most characters don’t get this treatment and look very comical, but it is forgivable.
The characters themselves are very likable. Meow actually manages to be funny without going into the annoying area that hyper idiots usually go into. Ran is, in one word: awesome. She is amazing swordswoman worth respect yes, but her antics are just really interesting to watch. She doesn’t care about hiding her sex either and prefers to address herself as the beautiful wanderer who happens to pass by. There’s just something really cool about someone who doesn’t care about what others think.
Ran and Meow kick ass, literally. Meow doesn’t get as much screen time to show off her martial arts skills but it’s understandable as it’s Ran’s show.
The series is episodic and while they are enjoyable none of them are anything amazing. Now that was what I was expecting and I’m fine with that, but I am disappointed that they did not go deeply into the duo’s backgrounds and only hint it. Understandable, but I’m sad I cannot learn more about the characters I’ve come to like.
One of the biggest things I search for in anime is enjoyment and Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran delivers just that. Doesn’t try to be ambitious, but just does well with what it has and does a great job of it. Newer generation of viewers who watch only the latest shows might not have the patience with the series, but for older viewers it is a series worth watching, just to go back for a while.
Story & Characters:
There isn’t a semblance of a central plot, it’s not particularly dramatic and its episodes are a bit formulaic. Perhaps it is this simple, and gentle approach to story telling which forgoes the dramatic and melodramatic that makes this series so easy to enjoy. It’s safe; you know what to expect, and no pretentious philosophy lessons or painful corny moments pop up to ruin the action-comedy in its simplest form. Of course the trade off is that the episodes become quite predictable, but the characters are amusing enough to make their light-hearted adventures enjoyable despite that fact.
Both Ran and Miao are foolish in their own ways. Miao is quite simply dense. She’s often flattered by Ran’s thinly veiled, backhanded compliments. Ran on the other hand, is blunt to the point of tactlessness. She doesn’t give due respect to anyone except inn managers, and only because they bring her sake. Alcohol is her one worldly desire, and it’s a fervid desire at that. Her laid back nature and simple wants hide her incredible skill with the sword, but unlike similar characters in Kenshin or Vash, Ran isn’t much of a hero. Her laissez faire attitude extends to her morals as well. She’ll punish wrongdoings, but only if it takes place in front of her eyes, and the way she passes off desperate pleas demonstrates her “out of sight, out of mind” stance regarding justice. The rather rigid formula of the episodes are all based on these character flaws. Miao will help anyone with a decent sob story while Ran refuses and looks for alcohol instead. They separate; Miao eventually realizes she’s bitten off more than she can chew and Ran will come to the rescue, possibly because she can no longer let whatever evil was taking place slide, but more likely because she ran out of sake money and needs a loan from Miao.
The humor is similarly repetitive; playing mostly off Miao’s idiocy and Ran’s social impropriety. With only 13 episodes, it manages to scrape by without getting old. The ills of society Miao and Ran stumble upon, from drug dealing, extortion, swindling, amongst others, create enough variety in both situational humor and plot to keep the series somewhat fresh. I wouldn’t recommend marathoning Tsukikage Ran though.
Animation & Music:
The 70’s Asian pop opening and endings along with its 80’s, Rumiko Takahashi look hides its age well. I did a double take when I read it was made in 2000.
Ran’s bouts are fast and concise (at times to the point of being anticlimactic), not particularly well animated, but at the very least, fully animated, with no still screens or cut outs. While most of the characters wield the Katana with two hands, Ran only uses one, hacking with it like a machete. It’s a nice fit to her unorthodox nature, and her dislike of Samurai. Miao fights hand to hand, but her martial looks look awkward at best, ridiculous at worst, though still commendable for being fully animated.
The music is a complete throw back. Not only the OP and ED, but also the regular BGM’s, many of which even sound like they were recorded in old studios. They bear that slight fuzziness in the higher notes that typical of older recordings. To go to that extent for its classic appeal is impressive.
Watching too much Tsukikage Ran at once will exacerbate its repetitive nature. On a sparing watch schedule, Tsukikage Ran is action comedy distilled to its purest form. There are no fetish characters, no social-political comments, just some nice good-guy vs. bad-guy action dealt by a classic boke tsukommi comedy duo.
When so many anime have an opening pop theme this opens with a more traditional sounding enka. It may be the only anime where I never skipped the opening song.
Some of the fight scenes were done quite well, being moderately realistic sword work. (Save for the lack of blood and, as seen in the opening scenes, the common trope of bad guys lining up to be killed, rather than attacking two or three at a time.) The characters were likable, though sometimes Ran reminds me of an Eastwood in the Man with No Name films, if he suddenly become like a little boy when offered liquor. Meow is the goofy sidekick. I think I had at least one loud guffaw per episode.
It was an underrated show and I wish there were more episodes. As others have said, simple but very enjoyable.
15: The Big O
English: The Big O
MAL Score: 7.53
Paradigm City, a city of amnesia and a place of belonging. It remains populated by forgotten pasts and the ruins of their labors due to a calamity 40 years ago. Shrouded in a fog-like mystery, it is up to people like Roger Smith to shine a light through the mist. Acting as a professional negotiator and suave agent, Roger is a self-tailored ladies man whose only love is for funeral black. However, as he gets deeply involved with his clients, what often starts as a simple negotiation evolves into Roger saving Paradigm from crime and peril.
In the process, Roger stumbles even deeper into the untold folds of the city. As a rule, things are hardly ever as they appear. Serving as gray knight in a gray world, Roger is not without allies. By his side are Norman, a loyal and widely skilled butler, and Dorothy, a human-like android with deadpan snark. Together with the relic Big O, a jet-black mecha of gargantuan size and weight, they help Roger serve iron justice to Paradigm’s lurking villains as he discovers the truth about 40 years ago.
First of all, if you are a mecha fan, you may be sorely dissapointed with this show, it has much more of a mystery feel to it and the Mecha fights may not be to your liking.
However, if your not a hard-core mecha fan like me but can appreciate the art-form of Mecha, you will likely enjoy this.
The main reason I love this show was because of it’s fantastic mysteries and it’s fantastic characters. I love all the characters in this show, because they are somewhat unique in their own ways. Characters like Schwarzwald who to many people appears to be evil actually is trying to good. While people like Alan Gabriel are completely insane and the main Villain Alex Rosewater has a superiority complex.
Again I gave this a 10 almost across the board, because It’s my opinion on the series. I felt it was a well told story.
Overall I think BIG O is under appreciated by most anime fans. Everyone should check out this series.
anyways, its basically about a negotiator named roger smith that pilots the big freaking mecha, big o. later on he gets swept up in all of this espionage and secrets and whatnot.
the first season is mostly stand alone episodes roger gets hired as a negotiator and he gets into battles with other mechas destroying most of the city (only for it to miraculously be exactly back to normal the next episodes.. ooh anime, gotta love it XDD) he runs into various villians including some reaccuring ones such as beck the wacky criminal that always seems to get himself locked up, schwatzwald that was once a newspaper reporter went crazy and is now dressed up in bandages and goes around setting stuff on fire and wants to uncover the truth. and more youll see threwout the series.
the second season has more of a plot feel to it, this is when you get into the somewhat wierdness of the series, and the crazy twists and turns and stuff.
both seasons are great. and it has a very nior batman-esque feel to it. im not very good at explaining things, but i would totally recommend it 🙂 plus its only 26 ep. so its not so bad (each season is 13 ep.)
14: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon SuperS
English: Sailor Moon SuperS
Japanese: 美少女戦士セーラームーン Super S
MAL Score: 7.60
SuperS centers heavily on Chibi-usa and the Sailor Team. A new enemy, the Dead Moon Circus, has now appeared. Their motive is to find the Golden Dream Mirror that would be used to rule the world. To do this, the enemy attacks innocent victims for their Dream Mirrors and test their energy. Chibi-usa also has a new ally on her side, Pegasus. This season also sees the Sailor Senshi obtaining new powers.
Story: The story is, I’ll grant not as involved as the other arcs. And the fact that we know Chibi Usa has Pegasus right off the bat kills some of the suspense. SuperS is often criticized for being too light and cutesy. But even though most of the episodes are filler, as with the rest of Sailor Moon, they are rarely boring. It is lighter, but we just had S, arguably the darkest season in the series, and we’re about to get into Stars, which is also very heavy on the angst. SuperS is a welcome intermission. Some of the episodes are very funny, such as when Usagi stalks Rei and Mamoru as the red ninja of love, or when Minako dates two of the villains simultaneously. I also like that it focuses on Chibi Usa, she really comes into her own. She also gets her own romance with Helios, which I think is the sweetest relationship in all of Sailor Moon.
Art: I’m not a big art person. The art is I think better than the earlier seasons, but it’s Sailor Moon. You don’t watch it for it’s animation merit.
Sound: The Japanese voices are wonderful as always. The English is…yeah. Though I will say Helios’ dub voice is really sexy. The score is top-notch, I think SuperS has the best music. Lots of new pieces.
Character: The Inners all develop a bit, Usagi really doesn’t but oh well. Chibi Usa is the one who goes through the most change, SuperS for her is like what Classic was for Usagi. And um, there’s Helios, who is awesome!
Enjoyment: It’s fun to watch, really. I swear.
Overall: I wish this season wasn’t written off so much. It has some wonderful qualities. I never tire of it. I highly recommend you at least give it a try!
While the manga of the SuperS arc gave Chiba Mamoru his due spotlight, the anime version utterly refuses him of this. Chiba Mamoru is once again left to linger in the background of every story (virtually absent in the Star season to come) while Chibi-Usa is given yet again way too much screen time.
The SuperS anime focuses on Chibi-Usa, as if an entire S season of her friendship with Tomoe Hotaru wasn’t enough. Unless you love Chibi-Usa (to DEATH) this may not bother you. Just warning, almost every episode has Chibi-Usa piping in it.
The art value changes randomly throughout this series. Some episodes are of excellent quality but many of them revert back to the cheap animation of Sailormoon R (part I, Doom Tree).
As for sound, Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon is consistant in its good soundtrack, but this season offers almost nothing new.
When it comes to Character Development, an Inner Senshi may have one episode them seems to be about them (namely, when Tiger-eye, Hawk-eye or Fish-eye persues them) but otherwise such expectations go unfulfilled.
The Enjoyment level is Poor due to all the reasons listed above. I for one hate Chibi-Usa and find the entire series grating, frustrating and poor quality. Overall, however, there is some goodness to be gleaned, like the progression of Sailormoon’s powers as well as the Inner Senshi and the knowledge that we won’t have to put up with Chibi-usa anymore in Stars.
Story: One thing that annoyed me about this season, is also an annoying point that the anime did to the first, and Stars seasons. They left out a lot of important manga plot elements. It would have been a much more worthy season if had shown those details instead of leaving them out. It was a cute season, regardless.
Art: I absolutely love how they made Pegasus look artistically. Every one of his appearances had a magical essence to it, so art-wise this season was pretty good.
Sound: No big deal in sound either in this season. No groundbreaking music, a lot of soft melodies were played throughout most of it, so it had a serene feel to it. Not horrible, but not amazing either. The voices though of Pegasus and Nehenlenia were top-notch.
Character: Although I’m not much of a Mini Moon fan, the new character of Pegasus/Helios was a great addition, and actually made me like Mini Moon’s character more. Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask were hilarious acting as parents, but other than that, the main leads weren’t exactly main in this season. It’s all about Mini Moon this time.
Enjoyment: I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed. I would have loved if this season were more like the manga’s story-line instead of just Mini Moon being the main focus. Tuxedo Mask’s origin story was prominent in the manga, instead it was only referenced in this the anime season. The same applies to the quartet villains, who also didn’t get their origin or outcome in the anime explained.
Overall: This season wasn’t the absolute best season, but still it’s worth watching for it’s cute scenes, and romance.
13: Tenkuu no Escaflowne
English: The Vision of Escaflowne
MAL Score: 7.68
Hitomi Kanzaki is just an ordinary 15-year-old schoolgirl with an interest in tarot cards and fortune telling, but one night, a boy named Van Fanel suddenly appears from the sky along with a vicious dragon. Thanks to a premonition from Hitomi, Van successfully kills the dragon, but a pillar of light appears and envelopes them both. As a result, Hitomi finds herself transported to the world of Gaea, a mysterious land where the Earth hangs in the sky.
In this new land, Hitomi soon discovers that Van is a prince of the Kingdom of Fanelia, which soon falls under attack by the evil empire of Zaibach. In an attempt to fight them off, Van boards his family’s ancient guymelef Escaflowne—a mechanized battle suit—but fails to defeat them, and Fanelia ends up destroyed. Now on the run, Hitomi and Van encounter a handsome Asturian knight named Allen Schezar, whom Hitomi is shocked to find looks exactly like her crush from Earth. With some new allies on their side, Van and Hitomi fight back against the forces of Zaibach as the empire strives to revive an ancient power.
Manga, Anime: There are three different manga for this anime, and the two that were released around the same time as the anime are worlds apart. In order to understand this, you need to know a little something about the production.
Escaflowne was in development for about five years. Shoji Kawamori (famous for his work on the Macross series and Eureka Seven) came up with the initial idea for the series after a trip to Nepal, and hashed out the basics of the series with Minoru Takanashi at Bandai, with Hitomi originally as a curvy, long-haired, air-headed girl with glasses, and a decidedly more shonen bent to the series. Sunrise (famous for their work on the Gundam series and Cowboy Bebop) was originally selected to do the series, which was then planned at 39 episodes, and Noboteru Yuki worked with Kawamori, with the director at the time being Yasuhiro Imagawa. The director stuck around long enough to coin the phrase Escaflowne, and then left before production actually started, and the project was shelved. Two years later, Sunrise picked it back up and bought on Kazuki Akane (famous for his work on Noein -To Your Other Self- and the Birdy the Mighty 2008 remake), who then gave the series a complete makeover, bringing in shoujo elements to balance out the shonen, notably, making the men a bit more into bishonen and remaking Hitomi as the girl we know in the series.
The first of the manga titles to come out shared the anime’s name, and was based on the original production ideas, which gave it far more of a shonen bent. This manga was done by Katsu Aki, and ran in Kadokawa Shoten’s Shonen Ace magazine from October 24th, 1994 to November 26th, 1997. It was licensed Stateside by Tokyopop, and the eighth and final volume was released on September 14th, 2004. The second manga title, titled Messaiah Knight – The Vision of Escaflowne, later retitled Hitomi – The Vision of Escaflowne, was released around the same time as the anime, and was a shoujo adaptation based more on the final version of the anime. Yuzuru Yashiro did this adaptation, and it ran in Kadokawa Shoten’s Asuka Fantasy DX magazine from April 8th, 1996 to January 18th, 1997, and has yet to be licensed Stateside. The final manga title is called Energist’s Memories, which is an anthology of several stories from the Escaflowne universe done by several manga authors. It was released in January of 1997, and also has yet to be licensed Stateside.
Escaflowne is a twenty-six episode series (yes, you’ll notice it was cut down from the 39 episodes originally planned) that was produced by Sunrise and Bandai Visual, and directed by Kazuki Akane. It ran on Japanese TV from April 2nd, 1996 till September 24th, 1996. It was licensed Stateside by Bandai Entertainment, and the latest full boxset was released on April 11th, 2006 as part of the Anime Legends collection.
Story: High school track runner Hitomi Kanzaki has a talent for stunningly accurate tarot readings. One day, she has a vision of a young man slaying a dragon, and, later that night, the same young man is transported to her world in a pillar of light, along with the dragon, and he slays it. As soon as the young man, named Van Fanel, has harvested the energist stone that lies in the dragon, the pillar of light returns him back to his world, Gaea, where both the moon and Earth (known as the Mystic Moon) hang in the sky – only Hitomi is taken back with him. As Hitomi tries to find a way home, her latent psychic powers are awakened, which in turn awakens Farnelia’s mech (known as Escaflowne), and she becomes caught up in the politics and conflict between Asturia, Farnelia, and the Zaibach Empires.
You can tell that the story was originally meant for a longer series, but the decision to trim it down to twenty-six episodes came through just when the series came in just as production was beginning, and the director didn’t want to sacrifice any of the characters or plot lines. So, instead, the already elaborately planned plotlines and character development was made to fit into a twenty-six episode series. And, admittedly, while the story and development is a bit jerky, slow at first but then speeding up in others, it still manages to completely and coherently wrap things up in its length, not to mention give the fairly extensive cast of characters good development.
And speaking of characters, I have so much respect for how they developed them. The characters all start out as fairly common shoujo tropes, but are developed into real people and incredibly engaging ones at that. Hitomi especially; she could’ve been this horrible Mary-Sue, but instead she is developed and even grows up a little as she makes her way through Gaea and reacts pretty realistically to her situation. Relationships between all of them are slowly developed, and you aren’t hit over the head with it as they are; when they are finally bought to light or out and out pointed out, you realize, "Oh, that explains it!"
For those of you who are mech fans, you’ll be happy to hear that the mech fights are paid as much attention to as the the story and character development; there’s at least one major fight every other episode. And especially appropriate is how they developed the mechs to match the level of technology that’s found in Gaea.
Gaea is general is built extremely well as a world; just about every aspect you could think of is given thought and explained in ways that don’t make you feel like you’re being hit over the head with the exposition hammer all that much.
The downside of all this is that you feel like you’re getting bombarded with information, and there are a few minor characters that are mostly running gags and who they seem to forget exist for a few episodes here and there and then are bought back into the story to remind the audience, "Hey! They’re still here!"
So, overall, while there is quite an overload on information, and a few gag characters are forgotten here and there, Escaflowne’s story is still pretty good, and all elements of it are given equal loving attention.
Art: Compared to other shows that were airing roughly around this time (Ruroni Kenshin, Martian Successor Nadesico, Ghost in the Shell), Escaflowne’s art is pretty damn good, if not gorgeous. Character designs are given the perfect amount of detail, not to mention as are all the different races on Gaea, mech designs, backgrounds, just everything is absolutely beautiful in this. There are some very strong lines used in this, like what we saw in Ouran High School Host Club. And overall, the quality of the art has aged quite well.
The style of the art has not aged well, though. Facial features are extremely exaggerated, notably with a few noses that could conceivably be used as swords with how pointy they are. Also, CG use in this is fairly obvious, which is a bit understandable, but it’s still a bit painful to watch at times.
Music: The music for this is absolutely spectacular. Yoko Kanno did the work on this, and it’s not the typical jazz soundtrack that I’ve seen from her in Darker than Black and Cowboy Bebop. Instead, here, we get EPIC orchestral scores, with beautiful string work and special emphasis on the cello (used to be a cellist, so it’s always great for me to hear the instrument used so well) and excellent choral arrangements.
The OP is sung by Maaya Sakamoto, Hitomi’s seiyuu, and is just a lovely ballad (well, waltz, actually, it is in 3/4 time) in general. It’s always a good thing when I don’t skip through the OP, and it’s even better when I sing along to it; I did this every episode. The ED is a more stereotypical upbeat JPop number done by a guy instead of a girl, and was very easily skippable.
Seiyuu: This series is chock full of good seiyuu. Hitomi was Maaya Sakamoto’s (famous for her work as Haruhi in Ouran High School Host Club and Aeris Gainsborough in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children) debut role, and her singing of the OP was her first work singing. Besides Ms. Sakamoto, Jouji Nakata (famous for his roles as the Count in Gankutsuou and Alucard in Hellsing) appears as Folken, and Juurouta Kosugi (famous for his roles as Akio in Revolutionary Girl Utena and Fernand d’Morcerf in Gankutsuou) appears as Dryden.
As for the other seiyuu, the voices fit well, and were acted well, which is all I ask for.
Length: Twenty-six episodes makes the series feel a bit pushed for time. Having the full run of 39 episodes probably would have helped this in the long run, and especially given it some time to breathe. Any shorter, though, and it just wouldn’t have worked.
Overall: Escaflowne has an excellent story and characters, a well-built and animated world, excellent seiyuu and beautiful music. It has a few flaws, mainly from the compressed schedule it was given to air in, and the occasional forgetting of characters but, nonetheless, is a very solid series. It’s not a ZOMG favorite series for me, but I would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a good series.
Overall: 41/50; 82% (B)
So I’ve been patiently watching the series mainly because I have nothing else to do, and tbh I quite enjoyed the first half of the series. And then they lost me. I mean it’s a fantasy anime, so a fair bit of leeway has to be given to the plot. I can make my peace with the hidden power of fate that the MC uses. I can deal with the mana-mechanical transformer-bots in a medieval setting. Hell, I can even swallow the uber ridiculous goal of the antagonist to control fate, and in corollary, control the world. Classic Villain. Pretty easy to swallow. Then it got weird.
There are a bunch of reasons I pretty much hated the series.
1. The antagonists are a fucking joke. First there’s Dornkirk who is our classic villain in the shadows, pulling the strings, laughing his evil laugh, who not surprisingly at all started out helping people. His goal is to create a world without war. Now thats very ambitious. More ambitious is his chosen method of accomplishing this goal i.e. controlling fate. You would think that he would take some kind of care in choosing his generals and inner circle.
Which brings me to Folken. Seriously dude? You joined his Hitler-esque cause because you didn’t want to kill a dragon? Yeah I know, thats not what happened, but take a moment to think about his actual motivation for joining up with Dornkirk. There really isn’t any. I mean I get why the fortune twins fell for Folken, they were half cat so it makes sense for them to unconditionally love the person who saved them. Folken’s origin story makes me believe his Draconian mother had intimate relations with a fucking cocker spaniel, because in the end he’s basically a rescue.
AND WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH THIS DILANDAU CHARACTER? I mean seriously. His only motivation to do anything is “I have a boo boo on my cheek and I must destroy the one who did it and anyone in the way of accomplishing my boo boo revenge”. Really man? Is that all there is to you considering how many fucking times you battled the MC?
2. Which brings me to my second point. I don’t like to be masturbated without the pleasure of a climax. Van has a hard-on for murdering every minor baddie, but for whatever reason when it comes to Dilandau his sword needs Viagra to function. Not to mention Hitomi’s nagging also starts ONLY when Dilandau’s close to death. Why? Why is this barely one dimensional character still alive in the 3rd act of the series? Even the final plot twist with this character…WHY? And more importantly HOW? His condition just resolves itself because….profit? This character gave me the biggest murder boner simply because the writers wouldn’t kill the little bitch off and kept teasing till the very end.
And after all that “cold as ice” acting , Folken’s heart suddenly melts? Because his two pussy cats died? Why? Did I miss something? What was your motivation to join Dornkirk ? What was your motivation in leaving him? Were you sleeping while he slaughtered the first few million people, or did it really take your pussy dying for you to regain your empathy? WTF? THIS, if any of the characters from the antagonists should have been the final conflict. Instead, the writers pussy out and turn him into a good guy at the end. Its pathetic. I bet a nun could jerk me off better than this piece of shit anime.
3. Then there’s… Luck enhanced soldiers made by transfusing synthetic blood created from splicing the genes of the luckiest people…….
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!?!? WHY NOT A FUCKING SPELL? ITS A MAGICAL WORLD!!! A SPELL WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE BELIEVABLE!!!
Unless you’re as nit picky as me, you probably won’t notice, but the mythology and the world design is in a clash in this anime. Much of it is ok, since we waste most of our time with the bland and often interchangeable characters, but for the most part…ehhh…the world isn’t believable as either fantasy or science fiction.
4. The two main characters finally fall in love. This love is strong. Its history is epic. It will become a tale retold in many forms. It had the power to overcome fate. There was nothing in the way of the two lovers making a life together. Theirs was a perfect ending. “Well, I have go back to Earth for absolutely no reason at all and pine for my lover for the rest of my life” – Hitomi.
In conclusion, I’ve definitely seen animes with worse characters, story mechanics, mythology and plot. Credit where credit’s due. It isnt the worst thing out there, but make sure you don’t watch this anime when you actually have the time to watch it. Watch it while you study for a test or something like that. Keep it in the background so you don’t notice the flaws, and you only see the magical transformer robots and furries. At least that way you won’t pull your hair out from the frustrating stupidity that is Escaflowne.
The first thing about this series that earned it a point in my favor was the wholeness and realness of the characters. Hitomi, the protagonist, in particular earned my approval because she, unlike most anime females, seems very realistic. She’s not the stereotypical "cutesy" girl (God, but I do hate those), nor is she overly self-sacrificing; she’s not one of those violence prone angry chicks, nor is she the tough loner, she’s not a goober who’s always eating, nor is she a femme fatale; she’s just a high school girl growing up in stages with a strong moral code. She’s someone I can imagine meeting if I walk down the street, which, after being innundated with the above stereotypical anime females, is very refreshing. Granted, there are many people who dislike Hitomi greatly, but I feel that she’s a strong character and that many of her actions, if you take the time to really imagine yourself in her situation, are reasonable, or at the least, understandable.
Aside form Hitomi, there are many other chracters involved in the story, each having their own personalities and unique stories. You’ve got Allen, the valiet bishounen knight, who is a bit strung up on the old ways of chivalry, Dilandau, the bloodthirsty psychopathic young general, Van, the moody and quiet crown prince, and a variety of other characters. The characters are so well done that it’s easy to fall in love with even the minor ones such as Gaddes, Allen’s right hand man.
The art style is very good given it’s time period. It is a bit older though, so don’t expect graphics like those of today found in animes such as Full Metal Alchemist and Air. The colors are a bit duller, but that only serves to enhance the overall rustic feeling of the anime.
The musical score for the series is fantastic. The emotions of a scene are captured superbly based solely on the ochestra rhythms. The openning theme is one of my favorites. The ending is a bit odd, but it grows on you. The ending also seems somewhat out of place as it has a sort of slowish techno-pop feel to it.
The main genres are romance and fantasy, but there is also a splash of the mecha realm thrown in. Unlike most mecha animes, the mechs in this are powered by the fantastical powers of dragon heart stones, hydrolics, and mechanical sytems. Their subesquent design is unique and intruiging. While seemingly low tech (the world in which Hitomi falls is not really technologically advanced and has a middle ages feel to it), the mechs are actually impressive bits of machinary. The floating fortresses and air ships, powered by magical stones, are also of interest.
There is not much humor to be found. Given that the story takes place in a world in the thros of war, this is understanable. It is not overwhelmingly, depressingly serious though. They do not make a point of expressing the darkest vices of human nature like Beserk or Elfen Lied. However, the anime does examine the destructiveness of greed, cowardess, hatred, and the problems associated with pursuing science for the sake of science. So, if you’re a fan of the overly goofy or light-hearted series, this one is likely not for you. It is also not likely for you if you’re an action fiend that requires an explosion or hand-to-hand fight every ten seconds. This one is mainly for fantasy/romance (but not the teenaged angst romance or the ten girls single guy romance) types.
One of the main themes of the anime is the conflict of fate versus free will. It makes some very intersting conclusions about how one’s free will affects not only one’s self but all of those around one.
I adored the bizarre twists presented at the end and highly recommend this. At least watch the first three or four episodes to give it a try. The only thing that will disappoint you is the fact that there’s not more of it.
12: Wolf’s Rain
English: Wolf’s Rain
MAL Score: 7.81
In a dying world, there exists an ancient legend: when the world ends, the gateway to paradise will be opened. This utopia is the sole salvation for the remnants of life in this barren land, but the legend also dictates that only wolves can find their way to this mythical realm. Though long thought to be extinct, wolves still exist and live amongst humans, disguising themselves through elaborate illusions.
A lone wolf named Kiba finds himself drawn by an intoxicating scent to Freeze City, an impoverished town under the rule of the callous Lord Orkham. Here, Kiba discovers that wolves Hige, Tsume, and Toboe have been drawn in by the same aroma. By following the fragrance of “Lunar Flowers,” said to be the key to opening the door to their ideal world, the wolves set off on a journey across desolate landscapes and crumbling cities to find their legendary promised land. However, they are not the only ones seeking paradise, and those with more sinister intentions will do anything in their power to reach it first.
The music was composed by Yoko Kanno, which means I might not have to say anymore, but I will. All her work is magnificent, but this may be some of her best. Insert songs and orchestration are beautiful as standalone but absolutely MAKE the emotional moments too. It’s a wonderful soundtrack to listen to without the anime, but it never overwhelms the story either, matching the action onscreen beat for beat.
In terms of voice acting, the Japanese is a solid listen, but also, Wolf’s Rain has one of the best dubs ever made. There’s not one askew line in the whole package, and what’s more, while I usually use this time to mention the standout players of the cast, I can’t even do that for Wolf’s Rain. Every single voice actor goes beyond the call of duty in their roles, all of them. Even some of the extras leave a strong impression in their five-minutes in the spotlight. This dub is perfect.
So the production values are top dog, but the real important things are story and characters, right? Well, that’s where your mileage may vary. Some people will shout, “This is brilliant!” only to be echoed by others saying “Uh…what is?”
Wolf’s Rain takes place in a complex fantasy world with a rich history, but doesn’t feel like sharing any of that history with the class directly. This is good because that leads to greater focus on the characters, and almost NO exposition spouting. Speaking of the characters, they all start out as flat archetypes and slowly flesh out into very complex personalities, which is kinda different. Still, this approach of showing very little and telling far less really forces you to think and catch fine details in order to understand why wolves are considered divine, what makes the nobles different from normal human beings, and most importantly, just what happened 200 years ago to make the world what it is in the story. It is possible to figure it all out, but it’s NOT easy.
This is because, and this is a little known fact about the show, Wolf’s Rain is an allegory, whereby most everything is actually symbolic of something else. Pilgrim’s Progress was a religious allegory, The Little Prince was a sociological allegory, and Wolf’s Rain is both, but not as obvious as either of them. The show cross-references several religions and mythologies to portray a unified theme. The wolves face trials of doubt, despair, mistrust, confusion and even a false paradise that offers bliss in exchange for identity, and this is in addition to the villains that hound them. The humans in the story struggle with issues of self-worth, denial, choosing comfort over facing the truth, etc., all leading up to a whizbang climax featuring one noble’s idea of the “perfect city for humans.” Think Brave New World or 1984.
The thing I like about this approach is that it’s subliminal. It’s not like Evangelion or Lain where you know there’s this big philosophy being waggled at you, you may not recognize any of the references in Wolf’s Rain, but its powerful message gets through just fine without mentioning a hedgehog’s dilemma or a god in the Wired. Simply put, Wolf’s Rain is powerful and it will make you think, but you’ll get even more out of it if you’ve say, read Revelation or know anything about Shinto animal symbolism, but the writers don’t expect you to. I learned a lot more about the show after I did some research, but I only researched because it was already fascinating.
If there’s a problem with Wolf’s Rain, it’s the infamous recaps. There are four completely useless recap episodes right in the middle of the show together, and I still don’t know why they are there. Still, this isn’t much of a detriment as all four of them can be skipped without missing any new info. And if you’re buying the DVDs, they’re all on one disc by themselves! Unless you’re a masochist, don’t buy the disc.
In the end, though, even if you want to turn your brain off and be a little confused while you watch, the outward beauty and emotional resonance of the series cannot be denied, even in its fairly controversial conclusion. I’ve watched it through several times now and every single time I discover something new and profound. It’s pure magic, it will make you cry, but I hope in the end you’ll be howling-happy.
All in all, I almost pulled this series down a level because of its slightly alienating religious themes and focus on animals instead of humans, but then I thought, how can I punish a show for being both incredibly deep and refreshingly different? It may not be perfect, and I can’t promise you’ll like it, but it is a quality work of art amongst anime and a whole new breed of fantasy.
*THIS IS A PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT OF MY VIDEO REVIEW WHICH CAN BE FOUND HERE:
Thanks for reading!
Take first, the main character Kiba. He has a goal and he’ll do anything to reach it. But he has two distinct sides to his character. One is his proud, rash, and arrogant self that attacks anything that stands in his way. And the other is a quiet, mysterious, and observing type that is expressed when meeting new friends (For instance, when he was reluctant to say his name to Hige) and whenever he is around Cheza. Though not technically the sorrowful character one would expect him to be in an orphaned and lonely state, he still makes sad connections to his past.
As this was an anime before it became a manga series, BONES (the same company that made Fullmetal Alchemist) had unlimited freedom on where to go with the series. Except for a few “flashback” or “clip” episodes in the middle of the series, there is almost no filler and the pacing of each episode is excellent. The animation is amazing (as expected of BONES) and the music just as well. Beautiful orchestral music is played throughout the series, and, unique to most anime, the opening and ending themes are in perfect English (as are other soundtracks songs during the actual show).
The main story follows an unusual cast of characters, most of which are not even human. Kiba and his crew are all wolves with the power to create the illusion that they are human (though it is not perfect as their shadows and pawprints are still shown through). There are also the typical human characters, like the greedy Dracia that wants Paradise to himself and a pair of lovers that rekindle their relationship through hardship. Plus there’s also the ghost of a cryptic owl that gives advice in proverbs. (Whether or not this is a Legend of Zelda reference is still beyond me)
But there is never a time when an anime can be perfect. There are still plot-holes within Wolf’s Rain. Mainly the ending: It’s open-ended and leaves more to be desired. But as a more thought-provoking series, the ending does its job… Kind of. But besides a few odd turns, Wolf’s Rain is good at creating plot twists. And BONES was so confident about the series that most episodes don’t even end in a cliffhanger. They just find a natural stopping point.
Overall, Wolf’s Rain is an enjoyable series if you love wolves, action, the supernatural, and beautiful music. Though don’t expect it to be happy or provide fan-service.
When I look back at it, I honestly believe that the characters just followed common stereotypes, and really didn’t evolve throughout the plot. The supporting characters were able to garner a little interest from me, but the lead was dull and drab, and the only dialogue I can remember from him is “we have to get to paradise”. A lead character is supposed to get a viewer emotionally attatched, not bore the viewer to tears.
Then there is the plot. Basically it follows a rather dull and drawn out journey to find the wolves “Paradise”, with a few twists and turns along the way. As the characters personalities barely evolve through the course of their journey, the plot becomes tedious, and I found myself not caring at all about the characters and their journey after a few episodes.
Then, there is the final act. To me, the last few episodes feel rushed and poorly thought out, and the story reaches a conclusion where there is no reward for patiently watching the show in its entirety. The show ended on a very vague and sour note, and had kept me in an irritated state for a fair while.
Despite not enjoying the overall plot and the characters, the sound and animation quality of this anime is great. I still find myself listening to pieces of the score to this day to fuel my imagination, which I am very grateful for. I watched the dubbed version, and the voice acting throughout was done well enough. I still despise that opening song, Strays, or whatever it was called, just not my cup of tea.
In conclusion, if more thought was put into the character development and plot, Wolf’s Rain could have potentially been a great anime in my eyes. The shows concept really interested me, and I wanted to like the show, but it sadly didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.
11: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon S
English: Sailor Moon S
Japanese: 美少女戦士セーラームーン S
MAL Score: 7.86
The Sailor Guardians and their leader, Sailor Moon, continue their duty of protecting Earth from any who would dare cause it harm. However, Sailor Mars’ apocalyptic visions and the appearance of two new guardians—Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus—signal that a new battle will soon begin.
These newcomers seek three Talismans that are inside the Pure Heart Crystals within human beings. Once brought together, these objects form The Holy Grail, a magical relic with extraordinary abilities. They want to use the Grail to save the world, but an evil organization known as the Death Busters seeks its power for their own desires.
The removal of a Talisman from a person’s Heart Crystal will cause their death, something that Uranus and Neptune see as a necessary sacrifice to form the Grail, while Sailor Moon and her group deem it unforgivable. But can any sacrifice be worth the cost if it saves the lives of the entire human race?
It has always been a peeve of mine when a story develops to a point and then mystically finds itself reverting back. Sailor Moon S suffers from the introduction of some pretty unlikable characters plus the reintroduction of an annoying one. The later is Chibi-Usa, the future daughter of Usagi and Mamoru who pointlessly returns from the future, apparently to just become a pest. The progress made in the relationship between Usagi and Chibi-Usa apparently is meaningless as we are again treated to constant arguing and disrespect shown to her “mother”. Honestly the whole time I just wanted Usagi to take her over her knee and throttle her back to the future. Even more inexplicable is Chibi Usa’s constant interference in Usagi’s and Mamoru’s relationship. I mean she does realize if they aren’t together she won’t be born… right?
The other new characters are the introduction of Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. A pair of completely unlikeable, cruel, and arrogant girls who never do answer for their own crimes as they ruthlessly pursue their own goals. Their rude and despicable attitude towards Usagi and the other guardian senshi despite being saved by them multiple times made them, for me at least, difficult to like.
For the most part these are my early impressions, and made it hard to get through the series until it starts to reach its climax. Chibi-Usa does become less annoying and she really isn’t in the series as much as it appeared she was going to be by the end. Though my dislike for Uranus and Neptune remained until the end. The story is pretty good but really not as strong as the first two series. The motivations of the villains don’t feel as defined as in previous seasons and the plot really feels repetitive for almost three quarters of the show. The weaknesses of the first two series remain, though the action is a little better. Mostly because of the addition of the new warriors the numbers of combinations increase which makes the battles a little more diverse. Though they are still pretty boring. I also felt that the Inner Senshi characters that are really important took too much of a backseat to the unlikable Outer Senshi. While each girl does have a couple episodes devoted to them it does feel like they have been mostly neglected. Also the romance elements were almost nonexistent in this series, which was a major disappointment for me. Despite all these things, the ending arc is very well done and I did enjoy the whole Sailor Saturn/Mistress 9 part of the story.
The art is probably the best it has been up to this point. Though there are a number of issues I had with the animation. Mostly this has to do with the really silly and overly long cut scenes, the biggest offender being Usagi’s use of her special attack. Really was all that dancing around and spins necessary? Also the music really suffers here as well with the introduction of some of the corniest anime music I have ever heard. Now when the sailors transform we get treated to individual songs for each girl. I wasn’t sure whether I should laugh or cry when listening to it.
Overall though I still did end up liking this series, and it is particularly saved by the last arc involving Sailor Saturn. It has a number of flaws but it is still the Sailor Moon I know and love. It seems to know when you are really getting annoyed or frustrated with something and stops in time before you want to turn it off. Fans of the first two seasons will still enjoy this but you will probably be a little let down, particularly on the romance side, like I was.
Now I think this is one of the precious animes I have ever seen because it is funny un childish in its sort kind of way, it is romantic and a little bit nude but isn’t too pervert to show to children, it shows different kind of situations that could happen in real life too (mostly metaphorical of course) and it shows that bravery and good friends are most valuable think in world.
It is good anime because of these situations which teaches us to be brave and never give up. At least from this anime I learned that and now I never give up and continuing to be brave when it is needed.
We open with a new threat. One that gives our heroines a cold sweat. They call themselves the Death Busters. Emerging from deep dimensional clusters. At the same time new soldiers appear. Representing a new era, we have Uranus and Neptune, both quite queer. I don’t mean that in any kind of demeaning sense. So please don’t take offence. It’s quite literally true. These girls quickly cause yuri to ensue. The Death Busters are seeking talismans for reasons unknown. The Sailor Soldiers seek to make them atone. First, however, they must discover the talisman’s locale. As well as Uranus and Neptune’s motivations and rationale. Can they stop these villain from stealing the crystals of people’s hearts? What’s the best way to bring down these upstarts?
There’s only one real narrative failing. At times the story seems to be flailing. Rather than pushing forward and progressing with the story. Fighting further monsters gives them glory. In all fairness, filler episodes are nothing new. The positive side to it is that they allow the characters to develop their dynamics without much ado.
On to more positive aspects. The narrative works in many respects. The battle against the Busters has some high tension. The whole conflict with Uranus and Neptune, revolving around differences in outlook, adds dimension. This is also the funniest the series has ever been. With plenty of humorous episodes and many a comedic scene. There’s also some strong romance. Not betwixt Mamoru and Usagi, they’ve already blown their chance. The romance between Uranus and Neptune is really strong. You can tell that together they belong. There’s also a budding romance when Hotaru and Chibi-Usa meet. It’s really very sweet. The climactic battle is very intense. Containing several factors for suspense. It makes for quite interesting viewing. Seeing the plans that have been built up and the attempts at their undoing.
The cast in this works really well. Adding Haruka, Michiru & Hotaru really helps it excel. The three all get fleshed out back stories. Which help elevate them above simple categories. The villains are also quite interesting, I must profess. The way they’re written has finesse. Like the other villains we’ve seen, they’re quite sympathetic. They aren’t just evil for the evils and unapologetic. You actually feel for them and hope to see them mend their ways. Before they find themselves going out in a blaze. Our favourite soldiers all make a triumphant return. Complete with more facets still for us to learn. I also have to admit that Chibi-Usa is vastly improved. With her more annoying attributes from the last series virtually removed. The character dynamics are very strong. Especially given that the cast has become a veritable throng.
The artwork in this looks quite dated. It’s not bad but it’s also not to be venerated. It has the usual over-used stock footage attacks. It also spends too much time with the transformations and those are facts. That being said, the backgrounds can look pretty nice. The series also has some more active action sequences that help add spice. All things considered, it all looks decent enough. Albeit it can be a bit rough.
The series brings back its already stellar cast. With additions for the new characters amassed. Ogata Megumi, Minaguchi Yuko & Katsuki Masako all make their appearance. Fitting in with perfect adherence. All the acting is quite terrific. With many actresses prolific. The music was composed by Arisawa Takanori and it’s really good. Helping convey the mood and build the atmosphere as it should.
S has more yuri than the first two series of Sailor Moon. In that area,, the addition of Haruka & Michiru is quite the boon. These two have les-yay with all five main sailor soldiers, Haruka especially. There’s even a scene where Ami, Rei, Makoto & Minako compete over which of them will dance with her when she’s back from dancing with Usagi, freshly. That being said, it’s their dynamic together that’s truly a sight to behold. It just gets cuter as we watch it unfold. We also get Chibi-Usa and Hotaru’s relationship. It’s certainly no stranger to skin-ship. There’s also a nice little scene where Ami gets jealous seeing Rei with another girl. Only to have really obvious relief when she discovers that it was perfectly innocent and not a romantic whirl.
That’s it for Sailor Moon S, how does it hold up? Well, it’s quite strong in terms of set-up. The characters get fleshed out and developed well. Their relationships are certainly swell. The artwork holds up the least. The rest of the attributes are surprisingly uncreased. Of the three I’ve looked at so far, I’d say this is the best. Being a definitive cut above the rest. In terms of rating, a 9/10 is how I’d rate it. Although I’m sure, like the first series, the English dub is shit. Starting this Sunday I’ll go into this year’s film festival week since it seems like good timing. Although those reviews will be sans the rhyming. I’ll start with Kara no Kyoukai Mirai Fukuin since starting with a KnK film has become a habit. So let’s see what’s in store for the world they inhabit. Thanks for sticking with me for three hundred reviews. I hope my words have helped amuse.
10: Seihou Bukyou Outlaw Star
English: Outlaw Star
MAL Score: 7.86
Gene Starwind has always dreamed of piloting his own ship out into the vast sea of stars. Unfortunately, not all dreams come true, as he spends his days working odd jobs alongside his partner, James Hawking, on the small planet Sentinel III instead. However, this all takes a turn when the duo takes on a job from Rachel Sweet who, unbeknownst to them, is actually a treasure-hunting outlaw. Tasked with protecting a mysterious girl known as Melfina, the meeting irrevocably changes the pair’s lives as they are sent out into the great unknown aboard the highly advanced ship, Outlaw Star.
Seihou Bukyou Outlaw Star follows Gene and his ragtag crew as they brave the final frontier, navigating the stars in search of answers to the mysteries surrounding Melfina. Encountering dangerous bounty hunters, space pirates, Taoist mages, and even catgirls, there is sure to be an exhilarating adventure around every corner.
Each of the major charachters were written and portrayed perfectly. Gene, seemingly a selfish and arrogant ass, surprises you again and again with displays of his softer side, especially when it comes to Melfina. Jim, while only 11 often seems more mature than Gene, and tends to be the voice of reason trying to keep Gene’s impulsive nature under control, yet despite that still has a lot of growing up to do, and was my favourite charachter in the show. The charachter of Melfina mostly remains undeveloped until the final few episodes, as her lack of knowledge of who she is is essential to the plot, yet it is not a bad thing that for most of the series she remains the nervous and innocent girl who only wants to find out who or what she is, as this brings out a lot of the hidden qualities of Gene and Jim. Finally, Gilliam, the Outlaw Star’s computer, who one would expect to just be a functional machine, stands out as a charachter in his own right, showing bonds with Gene, Jim and Melfina that one wouldn’t expect from a machine, and sometimes a hint of sarcasm in his voice as he complies with Gene’s “brilliant” orders.
The story itself moves at a decent pace, never too fast to keep up, yet in places does have the occaisional filler episode, which either serves to entertain in breaks in the serious plot, or to highlight a certain plot point. While the series would be no worse without them, they were entertaining and enjoyable, and the two that spring to mind both provide background information to the universe that wasn’t necessary, but still interesting to know. The universe is a wildly varied setting perfect for such an adventure, with a combination of science fiction technology and ancient eastern mysticism. The technology never gets in the way of the plot, and the mystic powers driving some events keep the show from becoming hardcore science fiction. Combined with Gene’s very down to earth way of dealing with the unknown, this mix keeps the plot moving rather than letting it get bogged down in pointless explanation. That’s not to say that nothing is explained, everything relevant to the plot is, but in an interesting way that doesn’t just becoming a drone of dull facts, technobabble and nonsense that can often be the downfall of science fiction.
Overall, this show is incredibly enjoyable and has something for everyone. It’s an adventure of the kind you used to dream of as a kid, yet it also asks what makes us human. It has it’s funny moments, and also it’s touching moments. It combines human (/alien/bio-mechanoid/machine/etc) drama with awesome space battles and gunfights, and even leaves this fan of explosions and lasers unsure which he enjoyed more. Watch it, you will not be disappointed.
I just recently found Outlaw again and decided to rewatch the series again, since it had been years since I watched it last.
It was not as good as I had remembered… it was 10x better! I enjoyed it from beginning to end, and I wasn’t bored… once. And if your able to keep my attention for 26 episodes straight, then your doing something right.
I’ll start with the story. It was very enjoyable, and something that pretty much anyone could jump into, anime fan or not. It has a straight forward story but still manages to be deep and meaningful. If I were trying to get someone into anime, this would be the anime I would hand them.
The art was also very good. The animation (particularly the action scenes) flow very nicely and isn’t choppy or glitchy at any point. There were a few times that I noticed that Gene was missing some details, but this is easily forgivable and not very noticeable.
The sound was good. The soundtrack wasn’t anything memorable, but wasn’t bad by any means. Not much to say other than that.
The characters were extremely fun and diverse, which I like in a cast. You got the main protagonist; Gene Starwind, an outlaw and womanizer. You then have Jim Hawking (kid sidekick), Melfina (a bio-android with an unkown propose), Aisha Clanclan (catgirl and comic relief), Suzuka (badass assassin chick), and the best fictional computer ever, Gilliam II. You can’t help but fall in love with all these characters as the show goes on.
The villains were all pretty cool, but I wish we could’ve seen some more development with them. Like Lord Hazanko and his unit The Anten Seven. You really don’t see much of them until the last few episodes. The MacDougall brothers were pretty cool (Ron especially since we share somewhat of a resemblance >_>)
Overall, this is one of the best anime’s I’ve ever seen. There’s ton’s of fun to be had here, and the rewatch value is very high with this one (which is a major plus on my end). If you enjoy Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Blade Runner, and just Sci Fi in general- no, if you just enjoy fun movies in general, I HIGHLY recommend this series. You won’t regret it….
The story is interesting for what it could be not for what it is, after the 4th episode, the story is put aside and it turns to be an episodic anime, where it leads to nowhere and they live to pay their debts by making jobs that aren’t interesting not even for Gene, but he does anyways if the sum is high or if he needs money fast, then the story sort of continues 2 eps. in the middle then again episodic, and in the last 3 eps. the story finally gets somewhere and is really good and i thought if every episode was like this, the story could be amazing but it was mediocre.
The art style looked good at the beginning but in every episode the drawing was inconsistent and got worse and the characters face looked different, the animation in the fight scenes were bad, almost always, even for that time there were better animations, and because of this i couldn’t like or relate to the characters, a mediocre art style.
The sound was the best of the anime, very good voice acting, great OP song, i wasn’t bored because the VA, or the sound overall, there are 2 ED songs which are melodic, they are good, but i didn’t felt it was fitting for the anime, the sound effects were good, overall was very good.
Well the characters were normal, nothing special, just Hilda, 4 eps. and she was the best, is a shame what happens to her, she easily could be the MC, I didn’t felt Gene was well developed, not even his backround, Jim was kind of interesting, i felt sorry for him in ep. 20 because he never knew what he did, it was sad, Aisha was likeable but annoying too and Suzuka wasn’t interesting, she was there because… i don’t know, they never got a backround, mediocre character development.
For some reason i enjoyed the anime, i wasn’t bored, i think i couldn’t handle the animation, the filler episodes weren’t bad but didn’t add anything to the story, maybe i enjoyed it because the setting was in the space but anyways i got a good enjoyment.
9: Hokuto no Ken
English: Fist of the North Star
MAL Score: 7.97
In the year 19XX, after being betrayed and left for dead, bravehearted warrior Kenshirou wanders a post-apocalyptic wasteland on a quest to track down his rival, Shin, who has kidnapped his beloved fiancée Yuria. During his journey, Kenshirou makes use of his deadly fighting form, Hokuto Shinken, to defend the helpless from bloodthirsty ravagers. It isn’t long before his exploits begin to attract the attention of greater enemies, like warlords and rival martial artists, and Keshirou finds himself involved with more than he originally bargained for.
Faced with ever-increasing odds, the successor of Hokuto Shinken is forced to put his skills to the test in an effort to take back what he cares for most. And as these new challenges present themselves and the battle against injustice intensifies, namely his conflict with Shin and the rest of the Nanto Seiken school of martial arts, Kenshirou is gradually transformed into the savior of an irradiated and violent world.
In fact, the Shin arc made me stop watching it for a while. The endless mooks in poorly drawn 80s style really turned me off. A few weeks later, I decided to try it again. I am so absolutely glad I did. Hokuto no Ken is a post-apocolyptic epic, and I don’t use that term lightly.
The story is fairly simple. Shin (Kenshiro’s rival) steals Yuria (Kenshiro’s love), and Ken goes to rescue her. However, in the background, darker, more dangerous forces are moving. The story is cunning in its simplicity, and quite well executed.
The art is of course, very old, and often shows its age. It is the biggest downfall the series has. The series is backed up by strong, memorable music, and one of the most comically catchy OPs (YOU WA SHOCK!) I’ve heard.
One of the things that Hokuto no Ken does interestingly is the characters. 90% of the major characters are large, stoic men, with pecs of iron and manly logic. The two children, Bat and Lin, are there to cheer Ken on, and be terrified/annoying, respectively. The men Ken meets are almost all evil beyond redemption. However, in the legions of mooks and generic evil, are some interesting, legitimately cool characters, such as Rei, Juza, Toki and Raoh.
To today’s viewer, it would seem like you’ve seen all the elements of this before in other things. The reason for this is that Hokuto no Ken has inspired every single action show to come from Japan, especially the long-running shounen of today, in some form or another.
I cannot give this series a 10, between the early filler (which is just about completely gone after the Shin arc), and the recap episodes. I will, however give this a 9. What I thought would be a hilariously corny 80s romp through a field of exploding heads turned out to be a amazing, epic journey though a post-apocalyptic wasteland, starring, the manliest man to ever be placed on paper. With exploding heads.
Are you feeling tired of high school girls in miniskirts and pre-pubescent skinny high school boys that pander to every single weeaboo on both sides of the pacific? Tired of being spoonfed the same Isekai and moe shit year after year. Stop whatever you are doing, pull up your pants, close your hentai tabs, slide the chair back and stick around as Fist of the North Star teaches you the art of manliness!
I watched this anime, no this MANime and a foot-long beard popped out of my glass chin, my max bench increased by 100lbs and my testicles doubled in sheer size. Fear not as this is not caused by some kind of testicular cancer or overdose on protein shakes. The sheer amount of testosterone that oozes from this show is enough to turn you into a badass gorilla with the strength 10 men and the swag of Carlos Santana. Thats right, this is a show for men and men only.
Fist of the north star is a glorious tale about Kenshiro fighting to survive in this cruel Mad-Max like universe and searching for his long lost love, Julia, who was take away from him by force by douche-bags and their loser henchmen. It is impossible not to shed manly tears during this show. From exploding heads to Kenshiro single-handily beating up a tank until it explodes, truly a mans tale worth writing a few words about. I will not reveal much more about the story as it is something that one should experience uncorrupted and with purity.
The artwork is majestic as fuck, never has the bombastic phrase “Every frame a painting” been more true, from the landscapes to the characters to the dynamic use of colors its as if Da vinci himself crawled out of the earth to produce these godlike frames. Now some people might disagree and tell you things like that its outdated or bland looking. Pay no attention as the complaint is more than likely uttered by a fucking creep with half naked lolicon posters in their room.
The opening title ”You wa shock”, is responsible for the emergence of the Y chromosome and male pattern baldness. Its a perfect blend of classic rock, jazz and hard vocals. Its the the kind of song you put on before injecting yourself with fake synthol and proceed to beat up the neighborhood bully, his mother and his cat.
Overall i feel like there is nothing more to be added or said. The show peaks in every category from story to animation to sound and so on. Now the choice is bestowed upon you. Will you watch this glorious tale and experience rebirth or will you rewatch Vampire knight for the 13th time like the pathetic loser you are.
Fast forward almost ten years later and I decide to watch it and honestly, I am glad that I did.
The story is fairly simple. It takes place in a post apocalyptic world where the strong live and the weak die. Crime is at an all time high. Bandits and cut throats kill, pillage and rape to no end. Kenshiro is a man who was betrayed by his best friend, one who kidnapped his wife and nearly killed him, leaving him for dead. Kenshiro, who survived, is now out on a mission to find the man who betrayed him, kill him and save his wife.
While the exploding heads are a neat treat, it is the characters that really shine. Don’t expect any teenage heroes in this show. While I do like watching Belach and other Shonen that are chuck full of teenage heroes, this show has none.
All the characters, from Kenshiro, Shin, Rei, Raoh, Toki, Shuu they are all memorable and likable in their own way. This heavy focus on adults is a breath of fresh air and is a nice distinction from all the teenage shonen that is out there. Kenshiro especially has to be one of the manliest protagonists out there and hearing him say “You are already dead.” has you know that he is dead serious and is not willing to play games.
The music is catchy, especially “We are Shock!” is a nice opening theme and flows nicely with the action scenes.
If there is anything that takes away from this show is the art. This show was made in the early 80’s and is heavily influenced by it. Everyone in the show has shoulder pads in one form or another and the bad guys all seem to have mohawks. Many scenes are used over and over again and there are times where the characters’ look are somewhat inconsistent from episode to episode.
Even so, this show is must watch for those who are into action packed, bloody fights without having to hear a bunch of whiny sermons. Overall, I had a blast watching this show, it was great through and through.
Now if you excuse me, I am going to watch Kenshiro use some ATATATATA action against some unfortunate fool and see his head blow up!
8: Serial Experiments Lain
English: Serial Experiments Lain
MAL Score: 8.05
Lain Iwakura, an awkward and introverted fourteen-year-old, is one of the many girls from her school to receive a disturbing email from her classmate Chisa Yomoda—the very same Chisa who recently committed suicide. Lain has neither the desire nor the experience to handle even basic technology; yet, when the technophobe opens the email, it leads her straight into the Wired, a virtual world of communication networks similar to what we know as the internet. Lain’s life is turned upside down as she begins to encounter cryptic mysteries one after another. Strange men called the Men in Black begin to appear wherever she goes, asking her questions and somehow knowing more about her than even she herself knows. With the boundaries between reality and cyberspace rapidly blurring, Lain is plunged into more surreal and bizarre events where identity, consciousness, and perception are concepts that take on new meanings.
Written by Chiaki J. Konaka, whose other works include Texhnolyze, Serial Experiments Lain is a psychological avant-garde mystery series that follows Lain as she makes crucial choices that will affect both the real world and the Wired. In closing one world and opening another, only Lain will realize the significance of their presence.
Introduction: I find myself typing this review thinking more about the conceptualization of existence, than the anime itself. Above all, there are two standards I hold true for anime. There are anime that simply entertain for the sake of enjoyment, and there are anime that stretches the boundary of human imagination. Serial Experiments Lain falls in the latter category and for this reason Serial Experiments Lain stands out as a true classic. Serial Experiments Lain pushes the envelope of what the perceived notion of what can be done with television as a medium. The show doesn’t just provide entertainment; it provides insight, and profound views and beliefs about technology and the role it plays in society. With that said it’s time to get on with the review.
Story: Given that Lain’s story progression is very disjointed, if the execution were to be even off by the slightest, the show would have been ridden with plot holes. Lain however doesn’t need worry about plot and story in the same sense as other anime, but instead relies on the atmosphere and the characters to tell the story. What little plot Lain does have, the show works with it fabulously. Now some may argue that Lain is completely plot driven, but to each his own. Personally I believe that Lain strays as far as it can from bland episodic story telling, and in essence is similar to Citizen Kane in the aspect that the story has little to do with the show. Lain above all is a character study, and the plot only moves forward under the characters.
Art: Despite the art being off center in terms of traditional anime, it hardly deters from the overall enjoyment of the series. It is important to note that the series actually benefits from the unique art style presented in Lain. Art is not a big pulling factor for Lain, so if you are a fan of high quality art, you may be in for a rough ride.
Sound: The series relies on a minimalist approach to sound and music. Dialogue is sparse, but very profound. Sound effects are seldom used but with brevity, and has a lasting impact on the viewer. Once again, this lack of a quality that would normally be detrimental to an anime’s enjoyment, but becomes one of Lain’s strengths. The sound of the electricity running through power lines, the empty sound of Lain typing on her keyboard, and the scarce use of music. These are all memorable pieces of sound effects that adds to the overall impact of the show.
Character: Now this is where Lain shines brightest. In a vast wasteland of mundane same-old, Lain sticks out as an anime that takes its characters to a level that most anime can only dream of achieving. The character of Lain is perhaps the most deep and relevant characters in anime today. To explain upon this point, one would have to watch the series and comprehend the various themes and motif’s on one’s own. But in order to be brief, Lain’s character can be summarized as ascending from human status, to near God like power through the prowess of the internet. Ahem, I mean, “The Wired.” It’s a simple concept and seems like it has been done before, giving credit to the argument, and it probably has. But the beauty here is the cast of side characters that surround Lain. Her sister, her father, mother, and friends, are all extremely deep characters, that although don’t appear to be, are actually extremely poignant in their own right.
Enjoyment & Closing: If watched with an open mind, Lain will do more than simply entertain. It is truly revolutionary anime for its time, and the amount of depth in the show is utterly staggering. Never in my years of watching anime have I seen a show as thought provoking as Lain. If one were so inclined to contact me, we could talk for hours upon hours of the religious symbols, and religious references that run about the shows course. We could then change the subject to comparing Lain’s character to that of philosophy of the Jungian Shadow. We could converse and discover deeper and more universal meanings as time progressed. Lain is such a show that the viewer doesn’t just watch it. The viewer must be pushed to think, and who doesn’t want to do a bit a of thinking once in a while?
Serial Experiments Lain is a paragon of many dimensions, and completely unparalleled in many more. It’s a masterpiece of intellectuality, and utterly unparalleled in providing a mind-warping trip into extreme psychological and philosophical themes whose impact lingers and haunts like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
This is going without saying that Serial Experiments Lain is one of the most inaccessible creations of art to grace the medium of Animation, and it is difficult to even describe its complexity. There is a broad range of ideas, all of which have massive depth in their facets, which could all be focused on as a main point. Generally, these themes involve technologies impact on society, thorough deconstruction of the internet, the psychology of an impersonal god, Etcetera. In addition, the massive breadth of theoretical possibilities to many of the open-ended points in Serial Experiments Lain’s plot and themes is without limit.
There is more things to breakdown and go into detail than could ever be summed in a simple article, especially considering the more subjective aspects. What I will going into is the realistic nature of the setting and plot of Lain, the mechanics of the show, and ultimately to the madness that lies within the later themes of Serial Experiments Lain.
**Section 1: Exposition Methods & Related Devices**
Concerning the plot of the first half of the show, the delivery is extremely cryptic and mysterious. There is little aspects of the plot structure in which one definitive point is summed up, rather it’s ever-evolving, chapter-less, and amorphous. Points are conveyed not through clear, upfront events, but through innumerable small details continuously revealed throughout the course of each episode. Everything is a puzzle made up of tiny little fragments of information, the bonding of each piece comprising of the viewer’s continuous contemplation and theorization of what is going on, and what is next. Eventually, through no clear, definitive point, but over a general expanse of time, the big picture clicks into place.
The latter half of the show, starting somewhere in the 6th episode or so, is an even higher dimension of intellectual exposition. In the first half, the themes involved with each small detail conveyed would be mentioned some way or another. The philosophical notions and ideas, as well as most of the psychological aspects, are found entirely through the viewer’s own questioning. This side of the plot, which holds some of most powerful ideas and content of its genre that I’ve ever witnessed, are never expressed in any moment through the face-value of events that occur, but entirely through the varying levels of connotations. There are no narratives, clear explanations, or dialogue, only the viewer’s ability to string together the numerous implications of events into powerful, complex systems of ideas.
The methods listed places Serial Experiments Lain on a level of intellectual sophistication that is, as of this day, unrivalled. Common tropes of exposition found in mainstream Japanese animation usually involve not only singular points of very direct narratives or dialogue, but outright illogical halts to events taking place in way for spoon-feeding the audience information to degree’s that outright kill immersion, or even break the 4th wall. Serial Experiments Lain is the absolute anti-thesis of this. Through the constant connotation-heavy, cryptic exposition, almost the entire burden of figuring out what is happening is placed on the intellect of the viewer.
In tandem with the exposition method is the pacing of the events that occur. Particularly in the first half of the show, the pacing for the most part is slow, drawn out, and takes it’s time with every detail presented. It’s true that it goes over-board in this regard at some points, however, it’s inextricable to success of the shows exposition method, which I will demonstrate in an analogy: If I were to present a person with a puzzle, demand it to be pieced together quickly, and then toss all pieces in the person’s face, said person wouldn’t make heads or tails of the puzzle. A puzzle is formulated and solved one piece at a time until the bigger picture is revealed.
This illustrates the key function of the slow pacing in the show. The significance of each bit of information presented is only designated by how each scene takes its time in revealing said information. If the show were to completely scrap this pacing in way for a faster speed, nothing would be able to serve as a cue to the importance of a bit of information versus an irrelevant bit. The viewer wouldn’t be able to register enough information to form a bigger picture, and the exposition as a whole would simply fail. In order for the cryptic nature of the exposition to not fall into incoherency, lengthiness of time must be utilized.
*Section 2: Realism – Part I*
Suspension of Disbelief is a critical aspect of Serial Experiments Lain. That is, the complete lack of any cause for disbelief what so ever. Before I go on about how Serial Experiments Lain achieves a grounded sense of tangible realism, and why it’s so relevant later on in the anime, I’ll first explain a few things about disbelief, and what too much suspension of disbelief can do to the emotional impact of an art piece.
Disbelief is what naturally arises when a viewer witnesses something that is extra-ordinary, fundamentally different, or super-natural in relation to the real world the viewer lives in. Disbelief isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if there is plenty of aspects of the show that are congruent with our own reality, or that the extra-ordinary premises are developed into some kind of sensible system I.E. if you can present a sufficient amount of science or logic behind what’s happening. However, regardless if it affects the show negatively in an immediate sense, which it can very much do, inundating a viewer with material that requires vast suspension of disbelief changes the nature of the effect.
Take a show like Naruto for example, where the characterizations are almost nonsensically dramatic and flamboyant. It’s true that it’s very entertaining to watch, but in reality, no one is going to spontaneously pass out at the sight of a tasty bowl of noodle soup, or yell at someone with so much force that they are lifted off their feet and fly ten blocks away, let alone survive.
An even better example, which highlights the negative aspects of what disbelief can do, is any sort of prelude or interlude you might find in a standard Shonen anime Ala. Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, or Soul Eater. In these scenes, usually, each side spends inordinate amounts of time explaining things. These explanations can be either totally nonsensical in the context (a villain explaining every fighting move he uses to the protagonist, or vis versa), or reach eye-rolling lengths (rants that go tens of minutes in length with no real reason why fighting isn’t happening. (I know it’s called filler material, and I don’t care))
The primary flaw in a consistent need for the viewer to suspend their disbelief is that the long-term impact of the show is lessened in proportion. While suspending one’s disbelief opens you up to the realm of the ridiculous and the fantastic, it also increases the emotional distance from the show and the real world. A viewer might get swept off their feet by a story about forest spirits and cosmic gods, but once we return to our daily lives, “real world” begins to over-write and obscure the emotions lingering from the experience. This is because the premises we are subjected to outside of the show have nothing in common with reality. In this regard, Serial Experiments Lain is incredible in a sense that not many show’s I’ve seen have achieved.
This quality, which is the utter lack of any cause for disbelief, is facilitated in two key ways, the first being the characterizations of the show. Just like the qualities of the expositions method (and by extension the existence of the entire plot), this is also an inaccessible part of the show. The characterizations of the show are, for lack of more interesting words, straight-forward, serious, and extremely mundane in a very “real life” way. This may seem like the shows biggest down fall, due to it lacking any sort of conventional values of humor, drama, goofy/silliness, or any sort of distinctly Japanese flavor of ‘wacky’. However, these issues are only skin deep, as they, just like the plot, serve to ground the viewer in a sense of absolute realism when the later half of the show begins to take off. That is, in the moments of absolute madness, there is no point in which the idea that “this could happen to real people, or people I actually know” falters.
The second key point is the plot. Speaking of which…
*Section 3: The Setting, and The Wired*
The plot elements involving the first half of Serial Experiments Lain are absolutely crucial to formulating the basis of, as well as a sense of logic and realism to, the second half of the show, which is where the truly transcendental madness lies. In particular, the plot concerning who and what Lain Iwakura is, what The Wired is and it’s functions, and what it’s relationship with humanity and Lain is. It’s important to note that The Wired’s relationship to Lain and the rest of the Human race are drastically different. However, due to the fact that the progressions of the plot lines aren’t found in singular events, but arrays of small details scattered through out each episode, there is a sort of vagueness to the origin of each idea presented in the show. This makes the subject extremely complex and difficult to even approach.
The initial setting of the show centers around a junior high schooler named Lain Iwakura. Lain is a very shy, distant, and extremely detached individual. She has a group of female friends which act typical in whatever ways junior high schoolers act, and they occasionally spice up there lives by going to an underground nightclub. It’s all extremely mundane and normal, until things take a turn into the unknown when strange occurrences revolving around something called “The Wired” begin to happen.
Initially, the appearance of The Wired seems to be the show’s equivalent to the internet, both technologically and sociologically. However, the nature of The Wired is revealed to have drastically different dimensions, mainly in the distinguishability between itself and the ‘real world’. This is illustrated through quite a few events that happen through out the first 4 episodes.
In the details of the first episode, one of Lain’s classmates commits suicide. A period of time after Lain Iwakura discovers this, Lain starts receiving emails from her dead class-mate which claim that “she crossed over into The Wired”. These emails show, somehow, that her conciousness still exists. Another series of events involve depictions of people undergoing strange hallucinations in episode 4. One of which particularly involved a teenage boy who seems to be undergoing what, on the surface, seems to be a severe hallucination of being trapped in some kind of dungeon-based video game. Ultimately, the boy ends up killing a girl he believed to be some sort of dungeon monster… What follows this is very crucial, and has vast implications.
After the event, Lain is shown gathering details on the incident, and what is gathered is that the boy had desired to play a video game (called Phantoma) with in The Wired. After this bit of detail, Lain’s father approaches her and engages in a dialogue, saying that Lain must remember that the only function of The Wired is to contain and transfer information, and that it’s not to be confused with the real world. Lain responds with a denial of this, stating that the difference between The Wired and reality isn’t clear at all. This dialogue, coupled with how the incidences involving people playing video games in The Wired, which resulted in experiences that completely blended with their perception and sense of reality, begin to point toward the nature of The Wired as something that is able to manipulate the conciousness of those who are connected to it.
In the episode 5, through the fragmented dialogues involving Lain and a variety of floating puppets, it’s revealed that external reality is a “Hologram” of the information contained within The Wired. Everything that ‘exists’ is simply centralized projections of the collective information that The Wired contains. The final progression is wrapped through two key events. The first is Lain’s sister, Mika, getting into a car crash. Through some freak accident involving her connection to The Wired, Mika’s mind gets duplicated into two separate instances, both of which begin to have their own experiences and become their own individuals. The second point comes much later in the show, where the exposition on the origin of The Wired, and its purpose, takes place. This exposition shows that later in the development on the technology behind The Wired, a scientist named Masami Eiri began to implement the ability for The Wired to become permanently connected to people on an unconsciousness level. The scope of this implementation was not just singular targets, but everyone on Earth. This is what is referred to as “The 7th Protocol of The Wired”.
So… What does it all mean? What exactly is The Wired, ultimately? It is two-fold: technological, and metaphysical. Concerning the technology behind The Wired, it’s some kind of global array of devices which, through some means, fundamentally affect the psyche of everyone on the planet. Through out the show, Physicalistic Mind-philosophy is a position taken as true, specifically that the human mind is electrical impulses in the brain, which can be affected and manipulated like any other electrical system. This presumably involves some sort of machinery that can wirelessly interface with, and therefore manipulate, human brains. However, there is another side to the technology, and that is the digitalization of conciousness itself. To put it more in the semantics used in the show, the complete translation of the human mind into a construct of information contained completely within The Wired, which can exist independent of any brain or body. This seems to be largely the case for most people later in the show, and is actually what happened to Lain’s classmate who killed herself in the beginning of the show, so it’s safe to presume that this is the universal case.
The second dimension of The Wired is metaphysical. To a universal, omniscient perspective which theoretically isn’t connected to The Wired, The Wired is simply psyche-affecting technology. However, given the truth explained about how mind’s who are connected to The Wired are completely integrated into The Wired, the meaning of The Wired when considering limited, human observers is absolutely fundamental. As explained in Episode 5, everything experienced by someone who is connected to The Wired are projections, or ‘holograms’, of information stored within The Wired. Given the fact that all of humanity is connected to The Wired, this logically means that the entirety of all experience-able and observable reality is The Wired, and any other conceivable basis for reality is equivalent to non-existence, due to how minds contained within The Wired having no means of experiencing something outside The Wired.
It doesn’t stop there. The Wired’s fundamental link to all observable phenomena goes beyond what is external to the human observer, but actually extends to the mind of each human observer itself. Not only is external phenomena projections of information in The Wired, but every level of mental phenomena that make up concious beings are simply autonomous constructs of information as well. This key fact serves as the basis for how everything, including the minds of human beings, can be manipulated, created, or erased in any way or means. This ties in with who Lain Iwakura is.
*Section 4: Lain Iwakura*
To preface, Lain Iwakura is an extremely detached individual. Lain is detached not just in a social way, but in a completely fundamental way: She seems to not really ‘connect’ with the entirety of her own reality, as if something were very subtly… wrong. Coupled with this is how utterly lost she is with in here own mind. I find this very intriguing and relatable because of how similar this behaviour is to my own, due to some aspects of my own mind. I often have my attention detracted into ‘clouds’ of mental noise that are usually extremely ungrounded in reality, at times bordering on out right craziness. This psychology is quite similar to Lain’s own kind of wanderings with in herself.
However, in exactly the same sense of how The Wired has unfathomably vaster facets to itself than its initial appearance, there is too more to Lain Iwakura than meets the eye. Actually, what is met by the eye at all would be closer to outright deception. Firstly, the name “Lain Iwakura” doesn’t actually refer to one particular person, but more accurately describes multiple beings…
From the get go, Lain Iwakura’s exact identity, in terms of it being singularly defined, is brought into confusion in the first few episodes, particularly when she visits the local nightclub. In scattered dialogues she has with various people that enjoy the night club scene, Lain Iwakura is talked about as if she is two different people. At one point a boy flirts with her, asking her to come back when she is her “wild side”. Another point is when the DJ of the club makes some sort of inquiry to her, only to dismiss her because “she wants to play her shy kid side”. During a few brief incidents, particularly involving a person who actually commits suicide in the night club via shooting himself, Lain is shown abruptly switching to a much more assertive, aggressive demeanour.
At first it simply seems to be the inklings of a Split Personality Disorder. However, episode 6 through 7 add a dimension to the problem. In episode six, Lain Iwakura is shown wondering through projected landscapes of data in The Wired (different from the projections that make up of Tokyo), attempting to find a certain scientist who worked on the technological prototypes of The Wired. In these scenes, she is entirely in her “aggressive” persona. In the beginning of episode 7, Lain speaks with her computer, expounding that there is a Lain in The Wired different from the shy Lain Iwakura, which is who she sees as herself. I feel it’s important to consider the occurrences shown in episode 5, involving Lain’s sister Mika. As discussed on what the implications of those events were, Mind duplication is possible in The Wired, and considering this, the dialogue at the beginning of Episode 7 begins to point toward the problems with Lain’s identity going beyond mere Split Personality Disorder.
There is another aspect of who, or more appropriately, what Lain Iwakura is, and this ties directly into the identity crisis that is about to come to a boil. Specifically, what is Lain’s relationship with The Wired…
Inklings of Lain Iwakura possessing some sort of great power of some nature are littered throughout the first 7 episodes. Lain is usually mentioned in almost all the dialogues describing the nature of The Wired, as well as the existence of some sort of ‘omnipresences’ or ‘god’ within The Wired. Whenever she is mentioned, she is described as carrying some immense power, or that her will is somehow crucially important.
Two particular incidents should be considered. The final scene of Episode 2 involves Lain Iwakura and her normal group of friends hanging out in the night club. At one point, a man shoots and kills a random female. Everyone begins to clear out of the club, but Lain stands transfixed. The man recognizes her for some reason, insinuates that Lain is somehow forcing him to the actions of homicide against his own will, and referred to her as a “scattered god” (At least in my version of the Japanese to English subtitles). The second incident is around the middle of Episode 6, where Lain Iwakura is interrogating the scientist behind the prototypes in which the technology behind The Wired was based off of. Shortly before the end of the discussion, the scientist claims that Lain is extremely important to The Wired, and that she has unspeakable potential.
This finally leads us to the smoking gun: Episode 8. Around the beginning, Lain is confronted by her normal group of friends. Her closest friend, Arisu, begins to ask if Lain is guilty of something, though Arisu fails to specify what this exact something is. After repeated questioning, Arisu drops the accusation and wanders off. From this point, Lain has some rather vivid panic attacks involving quandaries about her other “me” in The Wired, worrying about what that “other Lain” did, and confused on the matter of who she is.
At the 14 minute mark on, things become clear. Arisu is shown, in her bedroom, sexually stimulating herself to a fantasy of one of her teachers, which is obvious by his imaginary figure standing over her. All of the sudden, from the corner of Arisu’s eye, Lain is seen sneering at her from Arisu’s bed, tangibly and physically. With a persona clearly different than the ‘Shy’ Lain Iwakura, the ‘pervert’ Lain beginnings to mock Arisu for her fantasy, and laugh in response to Arisu’s accusation of Lain spreading rumours of her perverse desires, which sends Arisu into an emotional fit. To fill in the rest of the context, Arisu was initially suspecting that the ‘shy’ Lain started a rumour about her fantasies about this specific teacher, when the ‘pervert’ Lain actually caused the initial rumors.
Simultaneous to this event, the ‘shy’ Lain is shown, physically and tangibly, lying in her own bed in a fit of panic. What follows can only be described as a artistically surrealistic depiction of a mental breakdown, which involves a conflict between the ‘aggressive’ Lain and the ‘pervert’ Lain on who each of them are, or who the “real” Lain is, and, to her distress, the ‘shy’ Lain is forced to endure.
Following this is a scene somewhere outside the projections making up Tokyo, the ‘aggressive’ Lain is seen talking with a concious being in the form of a shape-shifting sliver blob, who actually turns out to be Masami Eiri, the scientist who implemented the “7th protocol of The Wired”. This time, it’s flat out stated that Lain is an omnipresent being within The Wired. After a series of denials, Lain concludes that if what Eiri said is true, she could simply “delete” all the information involving the nasty rumours spread by Lain about Arisu. Information, in this case, meaning everyone’s memory. Eiri agrees and asks her to try it…
… And then Lain succeeds in doing exactly that, proving Eiri true. After a scene simply showing the word “deleting…”, the ‘Shy’ Lain Iwakura is shown walking to school, when her group of friends greet her in a very chipper fashion. As they run to her, Lain deduces that she actually did what is equivalent to ‘erasing’ the events surrounding the rumours from existence, as no one remembers it: She deleted all memory of it from The Wired. Just as Lain attempts to return their greeting, another Lain tangibly manifests itself from ‘shy’ Lain’s position, greeting her friends in a very socially engaging way clearly different from the ‘Shy’ Lain Iwakura. All this occurs as if the ‘Shy’ Lain were some sort of imperceptible ghost to the event, as no one actually senses her presence. Lain is left in denial, saying “Stop it! I am me; I’m over here”. In a state of shock, she watches her group of friends leave with the other Lain, when she is suddenly confronted with the ‘pervert’ Lain. She says “Lain is Lain, I am Me”, and the whole scene fades to white. The episode ends with the ‘Shy’ Lain asking her computer to affirm whether “I am me, and that there is no other me than me”, clearly in an inescapable quandary of the nature of her fundamental existence…
So what is Lain? Lain is the ‘admin’ of The Wired. Lain is a being capably of creating, erasing, or changing any and all information in The Wired at her will, and capable of existing and moving to any point and place within said information. In other words, Lain is the omnipresent, impersonal god of the entire universe in which humanity exists, as she can freely change all aspects of reality at will. The good question is WHO exactly is Lain Iwakura? Frankly, that’s clearly an open-ended question, but from the perspective of the ‘shy’ Lain Iwakura, Lain Iwakura is a multitude of persons, all of which are also “admins” of The Wired. As to who the initial or real one is, this is impossible to answer, as each one Lain Iwakura fundamentally interferes with all the social and external functions of every other Lain Iwakura, as well as the possibility that every Lain Iwakura can create or destroy other Lains, meaning any one Lain could have been the first.
*Section 6: Realism – Part II*
Everything said so far has paved the way to what is the crown jewel of what Serial Experiments Lain offers: the philosophical themes and psychological contexts, which I’ve somewhat touched upon already. However, before we finally journey into said madness, I feel there must be some final precepts that have to be covered.
In philosophy, particularly in the abstract and fundamental categories such as metaphysics or ontology, proper and convincing execution of any idea is an easy performance to fail. The logic behind a particular conclusion can wane to many unjustified leaps and gaps, tend toward insubstantially tangential pseudo-intellectuality, or degrade into nonsense. Generally speaking, the most common instances of anything resembling abstract philosophy in modern media is either wildly exaggerated poor critical thinking, or entirely based upon “what ifs” and unexamined presumption. It is a shame that this is so because abstract and existential philosophy can create some of the most profound experiences that can be conveyed, if done right.
It is from this aforementioned point that Serial Experiments Lain draws its greatest virtue: despite the utterly extreme degrees it achieves, everything is grounded with in what can be reasonably deduced or implied from the premises of the plot concerning the world, Lain Iwakura, The Wired, and its effect on humanity. Despite its venture into solipsistic-esque notions and profoundly Lovecraftian epistemological themes, not once is there a vast gap in the substance that spawned such extreme quandaries. Unlike most artistic creations concerning extremely disturbing abstract philosophy, Serial Experiments Lain actually provides a satisfying sense of logic to a degree that completely dissuades any doubt. Not only is the logic of such extreme notions solid, but the premises making up said logic are realistic and scientifically feasible.
Most of what happens in terms of philosophical and psychological horror is completely based in highly advanced levels of wireless technology, an absolute understanding of how conciousness works in the brain, which allows for its manipulation, and global-scale virtual reality. True it might be that these extreme levels of technology are offset by innumerable distances of scientific advances that we have yet to uncover, none of the notions present seem so far off that I would begin to disbelieve them. The ‘fiction’ part of the Science Fiction behind Serial Experiments Lain is highly questionable in whether it truly strays from reality. On good example: I am not quite convinced that conciousness manipulation via electronic interfacing with a brain qualifies as outright fictitiousness.
This key point, that the ‘fiction’ behind the philosophical themes might not be all that fictitious; that there is consistent feasibility, solid logical progression, and realism leading up to, and present within, the incomprehensible fringes that Serial Experiments Lains shots for, is the crux of its unforgettably haunting and traumatic effect. These notions aren’t something that can just be dismissed as wildly pseudo-intellectual propaganda, nor as emotional drivel. No… This could actually become a reality one day.
*Section 7: Metaphysics, Ontology, and Mind*
… and so we finally arrive at the monolith of unspeakable magnitude that is the philosophical and psychological contexts of Serial Experiments Lain.
The philosophical ideas and themes, and all accompanying psychological contexts that the show ultimately centralizes on, deal with the abstract categories of thought on a comprehensive scale: Philosophy of mind, free will, the concept of the self, reality, metaphysics, and even epistemology-esque notions. This is to say that Serial Experiments Lain attacks all angles of how we conceptualize the true nature of the reality that the psychological self must function in. The direction of horror selects every aspect of how we think and feel about existence itself, which, by virtue of these feelings and thoughts being the basis in which we mentally interact about the world, totally affects one’s feelings and thoughts on anything conceivable. The structure of the philosophy is also of great merit. The way the notions are presented, and how they connect, is as if one were approaching a vast web of complexity with no clear point of beginning nor end. Every idea presented is either a seamless progression from, directly tied to, or a direct implication of, another idea.
The first theme that develops is the basic metaphysical and ontological thought surrounding The Wired. As I have explained in the sections on The Wired & Lain Iwakura, the definition of The Wired and the “real world” blend until they are absolutely indistinguishable. Minds which connect to The Wired are transformed into digital information in the process. This means that The Wired isn’t merely a virtual reality overlaying one’s sense perceptions, as that would mean that the mind of the observer would be rooted in another “reality” beyond the virtual reality: There is clear ontological difference. When a connection takes place, the mind of the observer becomes apart of The Wired itself, making The Wired the only reality there is, and thus the ultimate reality.
From many different instances in the show, this notion is progressively frayed into a complex network of more specific, sinister ideas. Much of the thought following the aforementioned basic notions blend into Epistemology and further reflections of what reality is to a human observer within The Wired. Serial Experiments Lain introspects deeply upon what it means for something in reality to exist, or specifically, for something in the past to have actually occurred, and meditates on how humans can know of such existences of objects. The entirety of the events in episode 8, where Lain was revealed to be a group of impersonal gods to humanity, as well as many dialogues preceding and follow that episode, show case one ontological idea on the being of events and objects: The basis on which any happening occurs, or pn which any object exists, is human memory. Tamper with the collective memory, and reality is warped, or even destroyed.
Further illustrations which will disambiguate this idea are present in the 8th and 13th episode. As gone over before on episode 8, Lain is capable of removing information from human minds on a vast scale. In episode 13, after a traumatic bout of events which lead to a climatic moment of distress for Lain, involving Arisu’s sanity snapping under the weight of said traumatic events (watch the episodes to find out why), Lain Iwakura erase all memory and records of The Wired, by extension any memory of herself, from existence.
Carefully examining the outcomes of these two crucial events poses a tremendous quandary with an answer of dreadful undercurrents: This would be the fragile dependence upon the human psyche in order for an object or event to exist. If, somehow, any physical trace of an event were to be erased, say, a persons existence, an important part of someone’s life, or a discovery that brought change of monumental magnitude to society, and then following that, the annihilation of all records which preserved the information regarding the subject, could it still be affirmed that it actually happened? If, given these conditions, all memories and mental information surrounding said subject were made void, and any awareness of such removal of information, that is, awareness of one’s own ignorance, were permanently removed, how would one be able to say if something existed or not? To the human observer, what would be the difference between these conditions surrounding an object or event, and said object or event never even existing?
In the omniscient, transcending perspective I am addressing this issue in, this seems inconsequential. However, to the human observer connected to The Wired, with the fallibility and limited scope of perception the comes with our human brains, what then would be the situation? What would be the outcome to someone who not only has their knowledge limited to the information that exists within The Wired, which would include the bundles of information that comprises their mind & conciousness, but also has their scope of awareness, particularly in terms of their own ignorance, limited to said information as well? The answer, with all its terrible implications, is that a comprehensive annihilation of all records and human memory would result in a state indistinguishable from not only the non-existence of said object or event, but a permanent state of unawareness from all of humankind in regards to the subject. It would literally be as if it had never even been conceived before…
From here on is when things get far more complexly intertwined, splitting into two main aspects. When taking into account the events of episode 8 and 13, as well as the fact that minds that exist in The Wired are just as much projections & constructs of information as the objects that make up the world of The Wired, the undercurrent of the previously described Epistemological notions bubbles up into another tremendous quagmire.
*Section 8: Quagmires at the Fringes of Comprehension*
The apposite observation that should be made in light of all these mind-numbing thoughts is the subtle Lovecraftian tone. That is, a tonality that, somehow, a humans sense of reality is frighteningly sheltered: Fragile and insignificant in relation to an un-meditatably vaster nature of reality, whose inklings might all but shatter any sense of sanity or well-being. It is a theme that slowly creeps into one’s mind at the unravelling of each idea spoken of so far. I feel the final nails in the coffin lie within in the epitome of these ideas. Enter the boundaries of Free Will, and its implications on the concept of The Self.
Return one final time to climaxes of the 8th episode. It was shown that Lain was able to erase events from reality due to the ontological nature that the existences of events can only be facilitated by the memory records of human minds… But what did the events of that episode truly imply about what a psyche is? The notion that it is bundles of information with an unspecified level of complexity has been tossed about, but a human psyche of this nature would find a ghastly truth to their existence.
This truth is on the ontology behind what ultimately constructs a person’s mind, which is the experiences that make up their lives. Specifically, that the construction is ontologically sourced from Lain’s being(s), and ultimately her whims. Take a moment and reflect on what built any ideal one might hold in life? Experiences with abuse leading to a desire for compassion in society? A certain sort of wisdom that might lead you from acting upon selfishness and hate, perhaps? Or reflect on any accomplishments one has had? Graduation? A person you were meaningfully intimate with: A mother, best friend, or partner of some sort? How exactly do these things exist to you, and how do they shape your mind? These, ineluctably, are based in memory records. Everything that has happened to us is memory, and therefore, everything that not only dictates our behaviours, but dictates self-image, concepts of who we are, and ways of thinking, are fated entirely from memory.
… And so, with a flick of Lain’s fingers, any comprehension of an ideal would be gone. In the instance of a whim, your warmest memory’s of your mothers love, your best friends companionship, or of all the good deed’s one has done, would turn to nil. The most mind-splitting notion is that any alterations or annihilations of the facets of one’s mind would go utterly unnoticed; The change itself becoming erased by the ignorance of such. You could be morphed from a loving saint to blood-thirsty psychopath, or have one’s mind revert back to an infantile state with the previous life all but erased, and you wouldn’t even know there was a difference. Any sense of there being an independent will, choice, or even freedom of thought, is just an illusion at the consequence of Lain’s prolonged absence. An illusion which can be shattered at any moment of her meddling.
This shattering of the illusion of a free psyche spells an insanity: That you can not escape this ontology, because the nature of your mind binds you to it, and the only alternative is the nothing of non-being. However, the most horrible disillusionment is not for those of human observers, but for the impersonal god herself, Lain. The Lovecraftian flavors of this ontology of The Wired is a double edged sword, with the show climaxing at the blow dealt to Lain… The realization of a near perfect Solipsism.
An underlying instinct of our human nature is that we exist in a world external to us. In order for something to become significant for us, the consequences of it must be outside the meer of mental whims. Engrained within the logical route to instances of meaningful events is that of their independence from us, less they be absolute delusion. Our minds must rely on there being something, or else everything that happens is simply an absurd form of nothing. There has to be a line in the sand between what has happened, and hasn’t happened, and the notion of independence of objects is that which draws that line.
It is this fundamental nature – this line in the sand – that Lain slowly finds herself bereft of. Each time Lain Iwakura alters the environment and history of The Wired, something wanes. At each demonstration on the ontological nature of the events that the Lain Iwakura cares about, there is a scream. A cry that can not be audibly sensed, nor sourced by any visual perception, for it comes from the breaking of a mind: An unfathomable, terrible wailing of a thousand leagues of the void, drowning all paths to meaning. It is the realization that, upon gazing at the truth of her reality, there is no real distinguishing between Lain’s own imagination, and the supposed ‘world’ around her.
This is finely represented in the last episode of the series. In the final confrontation between Lain and Masami Eiri, an incident occured: Arisu witnessing said events. After what must have lead to some abject realization of what the world around her really was, Arisu descended into an unintelligible state of maddening wails. Despite Lain’s attempts at placation, Arisu slipped into to catatonia under the weight of such inescapable truths. In absolute desperation to fix the only thing she really cared for, Lain wished everything back to the point were The Wired didn’t exist….
Once again, reality followed her wish. All memories of Lain’s existence were erased, and Masami Eiri was fired before he ever instigated the 7th Protocol of The Wired (which created the ‘admin of The Wired’: Lain). It seemed as if everything were back to normal, and it appeared as if The Wired was no more, except for one slight discrepancy… Lain still existed.
Now in what seems to be some sort of Limbo in the form of Tokyo, all falsehoods resolve. The entire world in which Lain cared about, in particular, all the minds in which she had a relationship with, are merely bundles of information which exist solely at her word. There are no ‘others’, nor objects. There is no ontological substance to having ‘friends’, ‘family’, ‘people’, or any sort of conception which would lead to a meaningful life. Any configuration of The Wired would net the same result: All possible experiences are equivalent to imagined illusions of Lain’s mind, which are held in only an inescapable nothing. From this, Lain’s mind cracks as the finality of her Solipsism-esque existence is disclosed.
That is, until she visited by God, or some other being that is actually independent of Lain Iwakura’s will.
Whatever happened after Lain’s mind snapped, the series closes on something jarringly absurd. Lain finally realizes the true ‘depth’ of her omni-presence, which is that the ontology of time itself based in memory and current awareness of the environment around human observers, both of which are malleable by Lain’s commands. This is shown by her meeting her old friend Arisu, who is now grown up and married, of and completely unaware of the events she had with Lain in her teenage years. They briefly exchange words, with Arisu befuddled with the familiarity of Lain’s visage. As they part, Arisu remarks that she’s sure they will meet again. Lain agrees: They will meet again. ‘Anywhere, Anytime’…
That is, until she visited by God, or some other being that is actually independent of Lain Iwakura’s will.
Whatever happened after Lain’s mind snapped, the series closes on something jarringly absurd. Lain finally realizes the true ‘depth’ of her omni-presence, which is that the ontology of time itself based in memory and current awareness of the environment around human observers, both of which are malleable by Lain’s commands. This is shown by her meeting her old friend Arisu, who is now grown up and married, and completely unaware of the events she had with Lain in her teenage years. They briefly exchange words, with Arisu befuddled with the familiarity of Lain’s visage. As they part, Arisu remarks that she’s sure they will meet again. Lain agrees: They will meet again. ‘Anywhere, Anytime’…
What the ending of Serial Experiments Lain means is possible the most thought provoking aspect of it all. The final thoughts that I am left with is are on how the ‘Shy’ Lain originally came into existence? What does the existence of the ‘other’ Lain’s mean? Perhaps the original ‘Lain’ who was birthed the beginning of the 7th protocol simply saw no meaning or motivation in anything due to her completely blank mind, and the creation of the “Lain of the flesh”, which is what the ‘shy’ Lain has been refereed to, was a means understanding what ‘human’ emotion and meaning was all about. What was the nature of the God-like being who visited Lain? Was he a figment of Lain’s imagination? Are there other levels to The Wired that haven’t been explored yet; Levels which Lain is ignorant of? Perhaps there are many parallel Wired’s, each with a similar being like Lain, outside of which higher beings oversee, and perhaps enjoy, letting these Lain’s play out their existence? These are but a few ideas which are inspired but the absurd, open-ended cliff-hanger that the series concludes on…
The entirety of the experience that makes up Serial Experiments Lain is completely nonpareil. Not simply unparalleled in terms of any mere genre, but of any medium across the board. It is as such because Serial Experiments Lain is a journey, not simply of a character in a show, but for the mind of the viewer itself. It is fall into a monolithic black-hole of completely unimaginable insanity, and a plunge beyond the absolute fringes of existential madness. It is gloriously epiphanous, yet strikes paralysing, abject horror deep into my soul. It is utterly awe-inspiring, yet haunts me to the bone weeks after the mere mention of its name.
In The Wired, we are all connected as one, and there is no escape…
Serial Experiments Lain is not your average show, and definitely not something you run into every day. It is a unique piece of entertainment that completely transcends its genre, and presents itself as a work of art. An avant-garde show, not restraining itself to the boundaries of traditional storytelling and plot building, creating a completely unique and revolutionary piece of media.
This anime series is NOT for everyone. One of the reasons this show is popular even now, two decades after its initial release, is because its plot is still not completely figured out. The story is told in a rather convoluted fashion, which makes the already complex plot even harder to interpret.
Lain is one of those shows that require the viewer to pay full attention to every detail, and challenging them to put all the pieces together to grasp the content of the story. The theme portrayal in this series only becomes more relevant even now, that the use of technology and internet is becoming larger. A nearly prophetic story of what will happen if the lines of reality and virtual world start to blur.
Not only does the show do an excellent job at connecting its elements with its heavy commentary on psychology, sociology and technology, but it also has a very striking approach to the themes of human connection and loneliness, and overall an exploration the existential self in relation to the world. it raises a series of very thought provoking and intellectual questions about identity, existentialism, and religion. The show is also very famous for its mind-bending thoughts about reality, evolution and the existence of God.
Lain’s narrative is rather cryptic, meaning that nothing is told to the viewer directly, but rather gives them the undertone hints and pieces that, combined, make the story. The story is devoided of any dialogue or character’s inner monologue, not allowing the viewer to know more than they should, giving them a strange sensation of being lost, and forcing them to search for answers. Due to the absence of dialogues, the show relies heavily on its visual presentation. It tells its story through massive, yet subtle use of symbolism and visual keys. The series is rich of surreal and expressive imagery, with commonly metaphorical content.
In terms of characters, there are just the two worth mentioning, with one being far more relevant than the other: Lain and her best friend, Alice. They represent the two sides of the same coin, or, in this particular show, a physical world, and the virtual one. Lain is a lonely, shy, and seemingly depressed middle-school girl, who also suffers from a split personality disorder. She is used to portray most of the show’s themes, one of them being a demonstration of the internet’s ability to split ones personality, creating a whole different person online. Alice, on the other hand, is much more down-to-Earth, realistic and communicative. Her character is used to resemble reality, and common sense in general, but she is also the key trigger in Lain’s development.
Also, even though other characters have an important role in the story, and are used as a symbolical representation of a certain element the show portrays, they aren’t as significant as the two aforementioned are.
What i think is the strongest point of SEL’s characters is the manner in which their characterization is done. As a fairly good compensation to show’s lack of dialogue, Lain’s characters aren’t defined through cheesy lines or forced exposition conversations, but rather through their very actions. The show can clearly depict the character with little to no dialogue, only through visual presentation of characters reactions, movement and behavior. In an essence, ‘show’ is of a far greater value than ‘tell’ in visual media, and SEL follows that rule in a nearly flawless manner.
From the technical sides, even tho the show lacks budget and doesn’t have as much production value as most of the shows nowadays do, it still managed to use this in its advantage.
The character designs are much more realistic and humanoid than most of the series. They are devoided of any abstract, but very commonly seen elements, such as weird and unique hair styles, unnatural hair colors, huge eyes and so on. This is due to the fact that the show wanted to make itself closer to the viewer and make them project themselves to the characters easier, but also to set a certain border of reality. In a show where so many surrealistic things happen there must be a certain sense of realism so the viewer can actually see what the paranormal happening is.
Also, due to the lack of budget, the backgrounds in the scene have minimal amounts of details, and a somewhat inconsistent animation. This allows the author to literally point out elements the viewer should pay attention to.
The show also uses lots of repetitive sequences, like the cityscape scene from the beginning of each episode. This is also used quite well, combined with new monologue each episode that really help a lot in the theme exploration. The show uses a very murky color pallet, with two different sets of colors: the deep blue tone, and a thick yellow and nearly sepia tone. This is not only used to locate the time of the happening, which is usually at night or twilight, but also used to switch tones and suggest a certain mood change in a scene.
It is very noticeable that the show lacks music, probably due to the lack of budget. In this certain show, this is by no means a flaw.
For a such a cryptic and mysterious show such as SEL, the absence of music creates a very unique atmosphere. The over-present silence and sometimes a quiet, but sharp techno sound absorbs the viewer in a world shrouded in absolute mystery, creating an atmosphere that perfectly complements the viewer’s feel of being lost.
But also, surprisingly enough, such lack of music and creating an absorbing ambient can be use very well when invoking drama. For example, a sudden hard techno bass after a long period of silence can help in creating a sense of tension, and also signifying to the viewer that he should pay attention to the plot point. This can also work the other way around, when the omnipresent background musing is rashly interrupted by silence, creating a very clear tone contrast.
Serial Experiments Lain is one of the greatest anime shows ever made, and a personal favorite of mine. It takes an absolute focus on singularity, developing its themes beyond the limits, and pulls the maximum out of its platform for storytelling. It has some of the most aggressive and infinitely deep theme explorations ever put in any sort of media. Its story is complex, intriguing, and somewhat immersive, with thousands of plot-twist, fascinating narrative style, and unparalleled and grounded thematic side. A thoughtful and unique 13-episode experience that can only be described as an onslaught of brutal mindfucks, digging deep into the core of your brain. A perspective-changing brain-basher introducing a completely new look onto this so called “reality”.
Close the world
Open the next
7: Cardcaptor Sakura
English: Cardcaptor Sakura
MAL Score: 8.15
Sakura Kinomoto is your garden-variety ten-year-old fourth grader, until one day, she stumbles upon a mysterious book containing a set of cards. Unfortunately, she has little time to divine what the cards mean because she accidentally stirs up a magical gust of wind and unintentionally scatters the cards all over the world. Suddenly awakened from the book, the Beast of the Seal, Keroberos (nicknamed Kero-chan), tells Sakura that she has released the mystical Clow Cards created by the sorcerer Clow Reed. The Cards are no ordinary playthings. Each of them possesses incredible powers, and because they like acting independently, Clow sealed all the Cards within a book. Now that the Cards are set free, they pose a grave danger upon the world, and it is up to Sakura to prevent the Cards from causing a catastrophe!
Appointing Sakura the title of “the Cardcaptor” and granting her the Sealed Key, Keroberos tasks her with finding and recapturing all the Cards. Alongside her best friend Tomoyo Daidouji, and with Kero-chan’s guidance, Sakura must learn to balance her new secret duty with the everyday troubles of a young girl involving love, family, and school, all while she takes flight on her magical adventures as Sakura the Cardcaptor.
The premise itself is fairly typical for a mahou shoujo anime. A happy-go-lucky girl suddenly comes across magical power and begins her quest alongside a cute lion-like caricature serving as her guardian and mentor. Sakura’s role as the chief protagonist is to capture the fifty-three magical cards of Clow Reed, each inhabiting a unique power that inconveniences Sakura and the people around her in some way. Some of these cards are immensely powerful, including the ability to manipulate time and dreams, while others are fairly weak or trivial in comparison and encompass smaller abilities like creating flowers or making objects float. After Sakura fights against the power behind the card and then seals it away it becomes a part of her possession that she can then use at will.
At least, this is how the story first seems.
The series is largely changed and complicated with the introduction of the deuteragonist in the eighth episode. Syaoran Li, a boy from Hong Kong, suddenly transfers into Sakura’s class and disturbs the situation by antagonizing Sakura and competing for the Clow Cards. This relationship serves as the basis for the central theme of the series as their feelings and relationship change and develop immensely, from rivals to friends and finally to lovers. This is a very gradual change and it’s paced well enough that it feels completely natural, a change you might not even notice without retrospect. You contempt Li when he’s first introduced and by the end you grow to enjoy his presence almost as much as Sakura herself.
Shoujo series are a bit infamous for their overly-idealized and sudden romances but Cardcaptor Sakura is again an exception. There is certainly idealizing, sparkles and bubbles, but the depth is there. The feelings between Sakura and Li naturally grow and evolve over the course of the series, with no contrived events used to advance their relationship. There is not even a confession by the end of the 70-episode run, yet there is no need for one as the anime has already communicated how strongly the two feel for each other. Character interaction and body language are used to express this– not conveniences followed by dramatic outcomes. The end result is one of the most natural and endearing romances in anime. As a mahou shoujo it is good, but as a romance it is excellent.
Cardcaptor Sakura is mainly a lighthearted and fun series. Most of the entertainment revolves around Sakura and her interaction with the characters, most notably her guardian Keroberos (endearingly shortened by Sakura to Kero-chan) and her closest friend Tomoyo who often goes along with her to the scene of each card to record footage on her camcorder. Other important characters include Sakura’s beleaguering older brother Toya and the object of her affections, Yukito, a friend of Toya whom she holds a large crush towards. Still, the series does eventually take a more serious turn in the second half after the initial card collection draws to a close. Some characters reveal hidden sides that will surprise the audience and certain side characters develop and become integral to the story. At no point does the show ever feel too silly or too serious; it’s a perfect blend of the two.
Interestingly, there are several elements that deviate from the conventions of most mahou shoujo anime. There isn’t a traditional transformation sequence in the anime nor one unique outfit that Sakura wears when using magic. Instead she wears normal clothing like a regular girl, or rather whatever silly costume her friend Tomoyo decides to dress her up in before the event. This adds a lot of variety to the action sequences and gives the audience a small something to look forward to each episode.
Despite its young demographic and reputation as a family-friendly anime, there are also some surprisingly taboo topics that are covered in the anime. There’s the forbidden love between teacher and student and homosexual feelings between two important characters. The anime does not use any of these elements as shock value, though, simply presenting them as-is with no moral connotation. ‘Love’ is the main theme of CCS and the amount of detail put into the relationships of even periphery character is certainly commendable.
On the other hand, the music here is nothing short of stunning. Some of the songs that play in the series, such as the first opening and the track used when capturing a card, are classics that will stick in your head and be remembered fondly for a very long time. More than simply enhance the experience, these tracks are a large part of what makes the anime what it is. The soundtrack is by far one of most defining and important aspects of the series, and perhaps one of the best in anime.
That being said, Cardcaptor Sakura is definitely not without flaws.
One of the largest complaints can be put on the rather long length of the anime. At 70 episodes it can certainly drag on at some parts in the story. While CLAMP carefully tried to make each episode as engaging and interesting as possible, it’s only natural that some episodes are weaker than others and that some events can become a bit predictable at times. Luckily, this mostly changes in the second half of the anime where the story expands and takes a mostly different direction where more emphasis is put on the characters’ relationships. As fun as each episode is, I can’t help but feel like it would have benefited from a shorter episode count in order for the story to flow better. A 50-episode story would have been a perfect fit, neither too long nor too short.
It should also be mentioned that the changes between the original Japanese version and the English localized “Cardcaptors” are very drastic, and certainly not in a good way. Music and names of the characters are changed, episodes are flipped and mixed together in an odd and sometimes incoherent order, and important backgrounds and plot elements are minimized or removed completely. While certainly not unwatchable, it’s a very toned down and poor imitation of a fantastic anime. You would be doing yourself a huge disservice by watching any version except the original Japanese one.
In a genre where conventions and inspiration form the crux of most stories, Cardcaptor Sakura is a brilliant title that breathes new life into the genre and anime as a whole. While not quite flawless, this is a classic that has acceded its spot as one of the most influential and quality anime titles in recent times. It’s a consistently high-quality, entertaining and sometimes thought-provoking anime that has more than earned its widespread acclaim and influence. This is a title that shows that there is indeed a correlation in storytelling between creativity and quality.
Cardcaptor Sakura has certainly earned its place in history.
The first and second season, in my opinion, is not most impressive plot-wise. It is pretty much very episodic, with recurring goofs such as Sakura’s battle costumes, Tomoyo with her camcorder, Toya always showing up at the right (or wrong) times, Sakura trying to win over Yukito, Kero looking up at the sky saying “Yue” like he’s heartbroken, and Syaoran once again tries to compete with Sakura. The impressive part of the first season is its comedy and action, because it was just amazing. For a magical girl anime, the action was just there. Every scene, suspense, effort, luck, desperation, success, it was there. When Sakura is not capturing cards (she approximately captures one per episode), she enters an environment with heartfelt friendship and goes through life very joyfully and often humorously. Even though the only plot is to “capture them all,” Cardcaptor Sakura such a variety of enjoyment that you will find yourself staying glued to the screen.
The season offers a change of pace as Sakura embarks on a brand new adventure, meeting a mysterious new rival. This is where the plot starts to change, as the cards are no longer the main emphasis of the plot. It is clear that while the cards changed her destiny (in capturing the cards), it also affected her daily life as well. The third season explores how the cards created a new path for Sakura in friendship and romance. This part of the plot is present in the first two seasons, but it became the main focus of season three. Personally, this is when Cardcaptor Sakura won me over. Until then it was just a very addicting and enjoyable show. Season three gave meaning to the cards and provides a few dramatic moments that fortifies the underlying themes and symbolisms the series tries to convey.
If you are new to Cardcaptor Sakura, then you might not realize that it was made in 1998. For its time, the art was amazingly amazing. From the opening sequence, you can point out minor details such as the movement of Sakura’s costume in the wind and the animation of her hair was just so realistic. Voice acting was awesome (and cute), and facial expressions were especially awesome. And then, there are the action scenes themselves. When the cards are released/captured, there’s a “wow” moment that you don’t expect to see in a typical magical girl series. Even though the action isn’t very technical with cool names and gadgets, it features everything from flying, sword fighting, evocations of the elements, and last but not least, Sakura. One thing that cannot be expressed enough is how cute Sakura is portrayed. That may sound stupid, but it’s one of the main attractions of the show.
Not only are the opening and ending sequences catchy, the background music was incredible, simply incredible. From the opening scene featuring Sakura on top of a tower, the music was engaging in every aspect. Then it smoothly makes a transition to everyday music when Sakura introduces herself, and finally to the suspenseful and catchy battle theme that everyone loves. One of the main complains about the dub (Cardcaptors) was that the music was changed. The original music was excellent, and it fits the situation it is for very well.
For an anime like this it’s tough to be perfect character-wise, but which anime masters character portrayal, right? The anime focuses the most on Sakura, Kero, Tomoyo, Syaoran, and Meilin, as expected, since they’re the main characters. Of course Toya and some other characters I don’t want to spoil have their roles also, but mostly it centers on the elementary students (and Kero). While a good deal of the supporting characters were developed, it is done mostly through inferences and vague symbolism. In a way this is good, because it gives Cardcaptor Sakura a deeper meaning if you see it, but if you don’t, it’s still a very enjoyable anime with minor plot holes. So in short, Cardcaptor Sakura is mainly an anime of character development and emotional maturation, and it mostly succeeded, for the main characters only.
From what I said above, this category would definitely have to be a 10/10. In fact, it has one of the best re-watching values of all the anime I’ve watched. The first time you go through the anime, it’s just plain enjoyable. The second time, you tend to pick up symbolism and motifs from here and there. That “ah hah” moment where everything clicks makes the series even more enjoyable, because it connects its episodic attribute to the main plot more closely. Cardcaptor Sakura just enjoyable no matter how you look at it.
An interesting character in Cardcaptor Sakura is Meilin. She is a filler character, meaning, she is not in the original manga. However, her roles are clearly defined and becomes one of the major plot-driven characters at the end of the anime, as well as being a very consistent character. One example is how I regard an episode that dedicated to her as one of the best, even though it is a filler. The addition of Meilin is not for the detriment of the plot, and I applaud the excellent direction it took to incorporate such a character.
Another factor that might affect some viewers is how everything is in rōmaji or English. At the opening sequence, Sakura’s name tag says SAKURA, the cards are in English, even how Sakura says them is in English. There’s just a lot of convenient things here for English watchers, something curious but gladly accepted.
If you watch this anime, then watch out for some controversial topics. The first one is homosexuality, which is present plainly in one relationship, and very vaguely implied in a couple of others. It would certainly bring up some questions for younger viewers, but in the end, the anime explains it in a very fitting and safe way. Still, it could be a concern but it shouldn’t stop you from watching it. It’s safe to say that yuri/yaoi isn’t a main component of the plot.
Another controversy is incest, the legal kind (in Japan). While a non-Japanese audience might be a bit uncomfortable of a first cousins relationship, it is best to keep in mind that in Japan, it is completely normal. There’s no weird things like brother/sister, mother/son, or stuff like that, so don’t worry.
And there’s a third kind of relationship explored in the anime, which is an innocent student-teacher crush. The anime never really goes anywhere with it, but it’s nice just to mention that it’s there. The one important thing to keep in mind is that all these three types of relationships do not affect the enjoyment of the series in any way. Relationships, after all, are part of the main plot, and they should be treated in an adult manner.
Lastly, although it’s something that not many cares, there is death. Throughout the series, no one really died, but the motif of death, angels, and the afterlife appears frequently. It’s listed as a controversy due to the assumed target audience (young females), but in the end, death is one of the aspects that gives more meaning to the plot.
As much as I don’t want to bash Cardcaptors, I feel that it is relevant. If you watch Cardcaptors, then my ratings do not apply. These ratings only apply to the Japanese subbed version, as well as what I think is the best version. Get this one if you can!
I can’t bring myself to give this anime a ten just because it carries no major revelations or any of the sort. You can argue that the ending is pretty dramatic, kind of, but the main purpose of the anime is to let the audience sit back, relax, and enjoy. Of course I am being harsh because I want something out of every anime I watch, but for Cardcaptor Sakura, enjoyment alone is enough to get it to a 9. Once in a while, it’s good to just watch a series and and enjoy it wholeheartedly.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Story: The anime is “episodic” in nature, usually consisting of single episode stories that most often serve to develop the characters and their relationships with one another, as well as Sakura coming in contact and attempting to “capture” one of the lost cards. Being a long series however, it can begin to feel very repetitive after only a short period of time. Although I think the overall concept of the story is good, I feel as though it could have been executed better, with more emphasis placed on the cards. In some episodes the cards have a very little role, sometimes being captured very quickly. A few times a card doesn’t even show up at all.
Animation: The animation is good overall, a few scenes are reused at times, but I have no major qualms.
Sound: Like with the animation, the sound was done well. There are a few songs I liked, and a few that I didn’t. The voice acting was done well, with voices that suited the characters nicely.
Character: I really felt that the characters were developed nicely throughtout the story. The Love triangle involving Sakura, Yukito and Li developed and resolved itself in the end, giving a feeling of closure after so long. The develop of characters and their relationships felt very natural to me as well. Their actions rarely, if ever, felt forced or out of character.
Enjoyment: If you are a fan of shojo or “magical girl” anime, and can stand a little bit of repetitivness, I would say that Card Captor Sakura is a must see for you. I personally enjoyed it thoroughly despite a few lulls hear and there.
MAL Score: 8.22
Vash the Stampede is the man with a $$60,000,000,000 bounty on his head. The reason: he’s a merciless villain who lays waste to all those that oppose him and flattens entire cities for fun, garnering him the title “The Humanoid Typhoon.” He leaves a trail of death and destruction wherever he goes, and anyone can count themselves dead if they so much as make eye contact—or so the rumors say. In actuality, Vash is a huge softie who claims to have never taken a life and avoids violence at all costs.
With his crazy doughnut obsession and buffoonish attitude in tow, Vash traverses the wasteland of the planet Gunsmoke, all the while followed by two insurance agents, Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, who attempt to minimize his impact on the public. But soon, their misadventures evolve into life-or-death situations as a group of legendary assassins are summoned to bring about suffering to the trio. Vash’s agonizing past will be unraveled and his morality and principles pushed to the breaking point.
As if Vash wasn’t enough for this show, they thought it might be a good idea to throw in a fantastic music score too. Tsuneo Imahori really hit the nail on the head with his work here. Great opening, great ending, and great background music throughout the show. I like some tracks so much that I often listen to them while exercising.
Wolfwood, Meril, and Milly are great supporting characters. The constant bickering between them will trigger plenty of laughter. Not a ton of detail goes into their pasts, but enough is presented to satisfy the viewer.
Animation is from the late 90’s, so it’s nothing crazy. It’s great for the time period though.
Overall, one of my favorite anime shows. Worth a watch no matter what type of series interests you.
[Synopsis]: Vash the Stampede (Onosaka, Masaya) is a legendary gunslinger with a $60,000,000,000 bounty on his head who has attained the additional title of the ‘humanoid typhoon’ due to the way he leaves a path of destruction in his wake wherever he travels. Because of this rampant devastation, the Bernardelli Insurance Society tasks Meryl Stryfe (Tsuru, Hiromi) and Milly Thompson (Yukino, Satsuki) to find Vash in order to evaluate insurance claims and attempt to minimize the damage. The story follows these characters across a desert wasteland as it quickly becomes apparent that Vash is more than a simple outlaw.
Vash the Stampede, while an absolute ace in every category when concerning marksmanship, is also quite a carefree and kindhearted character. From the get-go it is revealed that the destruction that is attributed to him is actually the fault of the countless bounty hunters chasing after the reward for his head. With this in mind, he is perfectly capable of dealing out major damage with his signature revolver however perhaps his biggest character trait is that he always avoids killing his enemies – opting to disarm or at worst cripple them instead. This mindset, while at first a character quirk, becomes very central to the shows primary story after a turn in what could be described as the conflict of naivety. Vash occupies an odd dichotomy of personalities where he can be both silly and comical but gravely serious the next second. Vash’s past and the reasons for his preservation of life are explored fairly extensively and as the story progresses.
Joining Vash on his journeys in the anime are the two insurance girls Meryl and Milly. While Meryl at first doesn’t believe Vash to be the legitimate ‘Vash the Stampede’ she eventually is convinced wheres Milly is much more certain after their first meeting. The two girls serve primarily as comedic characters throughout the show and their exaggerated reactions (mostly Meryl) are the source of a good deal of the shows comedy along with Vash’s antics. They are fairly flat characters and while they have emotions and serious scenes they feel fairly stunted on the development front. As the show grows more serious in the later episodes and the silliness of things is slightly phased out, they continue to tag along but seem to lack purpose.
Lastly, Vash and company encounter a priest by the name of Nicholas D. Wolfwood (Hayami, Show) on their travels who at first fades in and out of the story intermittently but later becomes a more primary character. I would say that Wolfwood’s appearance is a marked improvement to the show as he is more complex and action-oriented than Meryl or Milly. He shares some qualities with Vash, comedic and otherwise, but is overall of the more serious characters in the cast.
As Trigun hails from the late 90’s period of anime it’s art and animation leave a decent amount to be desired in comparison to more modern shows. This aside, the character designs, primarily of Vash and his enemies, are very exaggerated however they don’t feel out of place in the world. The animation itself varies from episode to episode and naturally the more important action scenes are shown a little more love than others but overall Trigun is par for the course. The setting for almost all of the story is a desert wasteland and so there isn’t too much exciting to work with in that regard.
One of my major issues with the show actually concerns its art and animation as I have a problem with how it presents both guns and bullets in the show. Because dancing around bullets is both a good source of comedy and also a clear way to show somebody’s speed of movement in an action scene – a good deal of bullets end up missing… a lot of them. This is highly apparent in that Vash goes more or less unscathed for a good portion of the early episodes – both a sign of his skill but hardly an episode goes by in Trigun where Vash doesn’t dart around screaming comically as a whole troop of enemies looses fire at him. So the problem arises in the over-prevalence of guns and the countless number of scenes where bullets seemingly accomplish nothing. When the show relies greatly on the threat of a gun in someones face (which happens multiple times episodically) it somewhat damages the tension and gravity of things when we are conditioned to think that the guns and bullets ultimately don’t mean much.
The show starts out feeling fairly episodic in nature – Vash travels to a city, he is pursued by bounty hunters or encounters a problem already in the city, action and comedy ensue and he moves on. This formula is used for the first 10 or so episodes and so Trigun can feel a bit slow to get into at first. The show picks up pace more than you would initially think it would and it also gets reasonably dark in comparison to its early far more comedic episodes.
At the end of the day, Trigun is less concerned with with actual progression of a plot and more with the moral dilemmas associated with Vash’s lifestyle. Why does Vash cherish life so – and to what lengths will he go to uphold his near-pacifist ideals? The show attempts to drum up a discussion of morals by presenting us with a heroic figure who will stop at nothing to protect and help those in need but who will not take the life of his enemy. This very quickly becomes problematic for Vash and only becomes more so as the show continues – eventually becoming the main focus of the show within the ‘primary plot’. Trigun claims to harbor a moral message but in my opinion its a bit lost and unfounded amongst the action and comedy of the show – it pays close attention to Vash’s own morality but fails to bring up points for one cause or another with any real conviction; it is a little flaky in this regard.
The music of the show fits the setting well enough but isn’t anything I would go listen to again after the show ended. As the setting of the show features primarily sand and frontier towns the music is evocative of a wild west environment but there is some sci-fi influence as well.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
I think that ones enjoyment of the show will rely heavily on whether or not one thinks that the show explored Vash’s moral dilemma adequately or not. The show has decent comedy in the beginning and reasonably interesting plot developments later in the show however because the show’s main focus becomes a moral one I think it should be held to that standard first and foremost. I would say without that moral intrigue, the show’s comedy and action would rarely outstrip anything else in those respective genres and so additionally so, Trigun relies importantly on its messages.
I will preface that my rating of this show is bias in that I am no great lover of the Sci-Fi western setting and that a more avid fan of that genre would be quick to give it a 6 or even as high as an 8 if they could overlook some of my more nit-picky qualms listed. The show falls short for me because as I have stated above, because it does not do anything exceptionally well and because its animation (by nature of its time period) is not actively beneficial to it, it appears overly reliant on what I would consider an ill-conceived or half-baked moral question.
I think that anyone that jumps at the premise of a Sci-Fi western should certainly investigate this show as its setting and characters support the genre well. I would also recommend this show to anyone wanting to explore the more ‘classic’ anime as Trigun is very much one of the more storied shows in medium and is the point of many a conversation. To action fans looking for good gun-slinging fight scenes I would recommend this however admit that other shows probably hold greater potential in this aspect. Lastly, to those interested in the shows comedy – it has decent gag comedy at the beginning but because the show eventually discards many of these gags in favor of a more serious tone I would recommend a different show unless your willing to stick around after the tonal shift.
The first half of the series introduces the characters, and may turn some people off by its silliness, but it makes sense throughout the second half. If the entire thing was completely serious, Vash’s character development wouldn’t have the same effect.
The music is very subtle and gets the job done. It’s not overly noticeable, and compliments the scenes quite well. I heard one of the members of the band Black Mages composed the music. The music is very recognizable and memorable for how simple it is.
The characters are extremely well developed and human. Vash the stampede is one of the most multi-dimensional characters created in anime. You may be constantly asking yourself questions about him. So is he a womanizer or a gentleman? Is he a killer or a pacifist? A goofball or a serious, stern person? All of it is very well developed and lets you know that Vash doesn’t have just one side to him. His friend Wolfwood is also very multi-dimensional and developed.
The animation and drawings in Trigun are not so great. They are in fact very mediocre, which is a shame. Many of the lines are drawn poorly, unevenly and the movement is often very choppy and of a low frame-rate (some of the episodes don’t suffer from this, however). The lower quality animation is probably a budget issue, so it’s a little easier to forgive. It must be extremely difficult to craft such a great series under so much pressure.
However, it’s definitely one of the greatest moral dramatic comedies I’ve ever seen. The last few episodes left an impression on me; the show has a very clear and valuable message that has staying power. If you are up for a nice 26 episode series to laugh and cry with, give Trigun a whirl.
5: Koukaku Kidoutai: Stand Alone Complex
English: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Japanese: 攻殻機動隊 STAND ALONE COMPLEX
MAL Score: 8.44
In the not so distant future, mankind has advanced to a state where complete body transplants from flesh to machine is possible. This allows for great increases in both physical and cybernetic prowess and blurring the lines between the two worlds. However, criminals can also make full use of such technology, leading to new and sometimes, very dangerous crimes. In response to such innovative new methods, the Japanese Government has established Section 9, an independently operating police unit which deals with such highly sensitive crimes.
Led by Daisuke Aramaki and Motoko Kusanagi, Section 9 deals with such crimes over the entire social spectrum, usually with success. However, when faced with a new A level hacker nicknamed “The Laughing Man,” the team is thrown into a dangerous cat and mouse game, following the hacker’s trail as it leaves its mark on Japan.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a series that really doesn’t need any introduction. The original movie proposed a disturbingly plausible future for mankind that is akin to the work of Philip K Dick and William Gibson. The series however, deviates from the movie’s premise in a number of ways, some of which are not obvious at first, partly because of how the series is laid out.
SAC isn’t a sequential series, and is actually made up of two completely different plot elements – Stand Alone and Complex. The Stand Alone episodes focus on the work of Section 9 as they investigate various cases, while the Complex episodes focus on the main plot – The Laughing Man. This has caused a certain amount of confusion for some people who were expecting a series that developed in the manner a “normal” anime would, especially as the Stand Alone and Complex episodes were interspersed with each other.
Where the series really shines though is in the complexity of it’s story, characters and setting. The biggest change between SAC and either of the movies is that the focus is not on “individuality”. Instead, SAC takes a far more societal perspective, and the Stand Alone episodes are actually essential in this respect. Without them, the viewer would remain unaware as to exactly how the members of Section 9 fit into the workins of society and government and, more importantly, how they fit with each other as a team. Each member of Section 9 is a survivor after all, and the Stand Alone episodes highlight this fact in a way that the movies never could.
The Complex episodes that form the “main” story arc can be watched as a separate entity, as is proven by the release of the compilation movie in 2005. The problem with this though, is that the viewer is far less familiar with the workings of Section 9 or the influence of it’s chief, Aramaki Daisuke, within the political, police, military and business sectors of society.
With regards to the stories in both Stand Alone and Complex, they are very well scripted. The change of themes between SAC and the movies has been accomplished in a unique and inventive manner, with far more focus on poiltical machinations, schemes, plans, plots, second guesses, double jeopardies and outrirght confrontations. The series is extremely successful in it’s depiction of a society that has begun to stagnate, partly because of the usage of cyber culture, with Cyber Brain Sclerosis being a metaphor for this deterioration. One of the truly great things about SAC is the debates that occur in most episodes, some of which are slightly surreal (in the middle of a gun battle for example), but all of which provide the viewer with a perspective on what is occuring that is sometimes surprising. Some may find this philosophication to be off putting, but SAC, indeed the entire Ghost in the Shell franchise, was never intended to be all glamour and no substance.
In terms of art and animation most viewers agree that SAC is a step up from the original movie, even though the series had a much lower budget per minute of animation than the either of the movies. One of the upshots of this is that, whilst the majority of the series is extremely well animated, especially in terms of blending CG and normal animation, there are occasions when the foreground action does not conform with the CG background. Even with that flaw though, the series remains extremely well animated and choregraphed for the most part, and aside from that issue I mentioned, most other problems are simply nit-picking.
I will mention one thing about the animation though. SAC is particularly noteworthy for it’s fairly accurate portrayal of combat. Unlike most action anime, there are no glamourous finishing moves here, no power-ups, no fly-by-wire martial arts, etc, etc. Instead what we have is what one would expect in this sort of scenario, a group of tough soldier-like veterans who fight to win.
Sound is another area where the series excels and, in many respects, SAC is actually superior to the movie in terms of it’s effects usage, voice acting and score. The dubs for both Japanese and English are extremely well done, with the English dub adopting a far more intuitive approach instead of an outright translation. The voice actors for both dubs are extremely well suited to their roles, with Tanaka Atsuko reprising her role as Kusanagi Motoko from the original movie along with Ohtsuka Akio and Yamadera Kouichi (Batou and Togusa). Mimi Woods, who played the major in the first movie, has been replaced in the English dub with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, and I have to admit that I much prefer McGlynn’s portrayal to Woods’ as her voice has a cadence and that is far more suited to the role.
Given the length of time between the original movie and SAC, it’s only natural that there would be some changes to the cast. On the whole, SAC is well served by it’s voice actors, and the changes to the cast have actually improved the quality and delivery, making the characters that little bit more believable than they were before.
The music for SAC was composed by the great Kanno Yoko, who should need no introduction. The often inspired creations add a depth and tone to the series that goes beyond anything achieved in the original movie, however most people will simply focus on the OP and ED. “Inner Universe”, the opening track to each episode, has become one of the most played anime songs in history, a remarkable feat given that the lyrics, written by Origa (Ol’ga Vital’evna Yakovleva), and Shanti Snyder, are almost completely in Russian. The track, sung by Origa and soprano Benedict Del Maestro, is striking in that it blends several different genres of music. The ED, an alternative rock track titled “Lithium Flower”, is another rarity in anime as it is one of the few songs written and sung in English.
I could wax lyrical about the music in this series, especially as I’m a huge fan of Kanno’s work, however I think you all get my point already.
One of the biggest differences between SAC and the original movie is the inclusion of the other members of Section 9. In the movie they were either bit parts or alluded to in conversation. Here, however, they are characers who not only have a role within the framework of the story, but individuals in their own right. The major characters like Kusanagi and Batou have also undergone a tranasformation, not in terms of looks but in terms of persona. Each of the main characters feels more “real” than they did in the movie and, while this may be due to the fact that the series can give more background, this is still a very noteworthy achievement as anime in general is notorious for offering poor characterizations.
Possibly the most fascinating and interesting addition to the series are the Tachikomas. These A.I. controlled “mini-tanks” sometimes act as comic relief, however their main pupose is to highlight how humans in the series are becoming more robotic, whilst beings like the Tachikoma are becoming more human. This is one of the reasons why the Tachikoma are presented with childlike voices and qualities, especially an insatiable curiosity.
SAC is one of the few anime that, in my opinion, can only be “enjoyed” in purely subjective terms. The complexity in both its story and characters, combined with its technologically plausible setting, ethical debates and philosophical arguments, means that whilst there is a lot of action, there is actually a point to it all instead of it being just mindless violence.
This is very much an intelligent series for intelligent people and, while there are some who won’t enjoy it, I found the blend of action, mystery, philosophy and thriller to be truly excellent.
One such examination is the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (GitS) series. Revitalizing the cyberpunk genre and honing in on various veins of society, GitS is a series that revamps the boundaries of typical sci-fi/cyberpunk story-telling.
Set in the future, the first installment of the Stand Alone series trails the respective missions and cases dealt with by an independent, elite unit established by the government titled Section 9. The manner in which the story is structured is peculiarly fascinating: the show is divided up by stand-alone episodes and “dividual”/complex or simply the pivotal episodes that deal with the central case of the laughing man. Therefore, GitS can be considered largely episodic. That by no means indicates a lapse in quality as those stand-alone episodes fulfill many functions; one being, to present an encompassing view of the society depicted and the individuals that compose it, especially the leading cast. It is especially effective because a large part in appreciating this narrative is understanding the intricacies of the world it offers. To put it simply: nothing is done in vain.
With that being said, this is a tale that unfolds slowly. Although, it is a crime-centric series which would imply a certain degree of action, it is smartly and properly utilized. This is a multi-layered show and each layer is carefully peeled and explored. Composed of exceptional writing, intuitive expositions, and an extensive setting, GitS manages to create a consistent flow without relying on an array of shock values or incessant action fillers . Furthermore, the action isn’t used superficially or gratuitously, but as an auxiliary measure to provide a worthwhile experience. This isn’t the series to go to for fast-paced and continual action; it has long tenures of recurring dialogue and expositions, which can be detractingly slow for some. Regardless, the pacing is well-seasoned; allowing for a more effective and comprehensive outlook of its society.
The GitS society is composed of cyborgs, humans, A.I, and other mechanically-altered beings/machines. Consequently, one can imagine that certain inquiries are bound to rise up. From ontological speculation to political turmoil ; from corporate debauchery to ethical breaches; the series inherently sets up a plethora of topics for the audience to ruminate upon. The core of GitS is embedded in its concepts of “ghost” and “shell” which are extrapolated further to craft the philosophy of the series. Created truly in an ineffable manner, it borrows from a handful of philosophical narratives and works of literature to construct a hyper-“cyberized” realm which draws upon the aforesaid concepts and generates the Stand Alone Complex; yet it is also able to simultaneously maintain an air of authenticity.
Even though the dominant focus is on macro/social-constructs, there are some other very interesting nuances. For example, the disillusionment that accompanies “upgrading” one’s body is subtly depicted by various events such as cyborgs not being able to indulge in their favorite foods because their new bodies have no need for savory sustenance. The perpetual paradox of clinging to one’s humanity by physically losing it is wonderfully crafted. One can’t help but ponder upon where the attributes of “human-ness” start and end. Additionally, that paradox is juxtaposed quite ingeniously by the addition of the innocently intuitive Tachikomas (A.I -robots), who throughout the show, question concepts such as individuality, free will, fate, freedom, life, and death which are essentially synonymous with the history of human thought. Where there is humanity lost, elsewhere it is “found”. GitS shows us that it’s precisely where we least expect it, by “our own” design, can it resurface.
What GitS must be endlessly praised for is its uncanny ability to combine various disciplines such as: literature, ethics, philosophy (to name a few), and incorporate them in a relevant and meaningful way. There is both insight and context to almost every concept, reference, and quote that was used in the show. All of this is swiftly integrated and explicitly reflected through the laughing man case. Furthermore, literary devices such as motifs, allusions, and references are implemented elegantly within the narrative, rather than as a detached component. A recurring flaw that occurs in similar works is the constant abuse of irrelevant references, quote dropping, and other superfluous insertions that serve no purpose whatsoever other than to give the false impression of depth or intelligence. This series manages to avoid that and instead, provide perceptive commentary without breaking immersion, while also resonating deeply with the viewer as it frequently serves as a reflecting mirror of the reality in more than one way(s).
In a society where machines are questioning their existence, humans are questioning their humanity, and amidst it all, the marriage between man and machine is eternalized; GitS takes a very neutral stance and just reports, rather than preach. This is a notable technique because it abandons the didactic tone and allows room for personal introspection/interpretation, rather than force-feeding a subscribed ideology. Embracing its thematic heart, GitS offers a level of unmatched profundity.
The characters of GitS are equally fascinating– not as glamorized mouth-pieces– but as integral entities that provided a kaleidoscopic view; one seeped in many colors. “One-woman army” Major Motoko Kusanagi is undoubtedly the driving force of the series. Her attributes aren’t necessarily unique, but convincing given her role. She serves as a concrete pillar for her team and as an intriguing lead for the series. The rest of the characters are also well-maintained and created with care and purpose.
A point of true admiration is how the show expands on the collective struggle of the team in accordance with the prevalent themes and ideological undercurrents. Furthermore, the dynamics between the characters are assiduously constructed and are focal to the characterization aspect of the show. There is a surprising amount of depth in the dialogues between the members of Section 9 and those they pursue, which often times is the only portal into understanding the respective character’s persona. Though the characters remain somewhat innately enigmatic, they serve a pivotal role in providing different views on other characters and the world that they occupy.
One caveat that lightly burdens the series is the lack of [balanced] development of the characters on an individual level. There were some members that were rarely elaborated upon even though they were essential to the team. Some characters changed while many remained the same—which isn’t necessarily a fault–but the series could have taken it step further to add a deeper element of empathy. Sporadic and detailed snapshots were provided for certain characters which were a delight, but tantalizing nonetheless, for they often incited the urge to want more. The characters were generally solid, but alas, there was a lingering emptiness—a feeling of something “lacking”.
The connection that is often forged between the audience and the characters they watch or read is important but due to the “dehumanized” nature of the series, GitS was underwhelming in that aspect. Although, it can be easily argued that it remained true to its ambitions and what it was trying to achieve, the overall experience could have slightly improved if individual characterization was given more weight. Despite that, the characters were all interesting and maintained the allure of the GitS world with grace.
Aesthetically, the series does not disappoint. GitS has this precocious ability to show and tell, which allows it to manifest into an unforgettable audio-visual-sensory experience. The art and animation are commendable not just because of fluidity and style but because of well it intertwined with overall atmosphere. The visuals and sound work hand-in-hand to provide a front-and-center view for the audience, thus producing a remarkable atmosphere. For example, the urban metropolis, sprawling with celestial skyscrapers and engulfed in a sea of endless lights– is often infused with a continual dark and destitute tone– that is partly depicted by off-setting the vibrancy with shifts in darker colors and shades. One can feel the alienation dripping off the atmosphere and embrace it as if it were their own. Truly, the animation and art style provides a very visceral experience.
Further complementing the atmosphere is the sublime soundtrack of GitS. This doesn’t come as a surprise to many considering Yoko Kanno is the woman behind it all. From the OP to the overall background music, GitS provides a euphonious journey for one’s ears. The meshing of various dialects and fusing distinct styles– such as jazz, classical, and electronica-rock– all are combined to assemble one of the most spectacular soundtracks that will surely find a place on one’s playlist.
In essence, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is truly a gem that paints a very interesting picture of not just a potential future, but also of one that parallels the present. As humanity continues to leap towards a rapidly changing future and form a holy liaison with its pursuit of technological advancement, many of us can’t help but ponder upon where all these efforts will take us, and more importantly, whether they will be worth it. Until then, astute creators and artists will continue to prophesize and fulfill their roles as latent harbingers. To exploit that imagination and satisfy one’s curiosity comes the GitS: SAC narrative that should be experienced by all those who are interested in such a reverie. Graced with the wisdom of a sage and the creative curiosity of youth, Stand Alone Complex is a tale that can be thoroughly relished on various planes of cognition and enjoyment.
The way the story sets up isn’t just following one main story, which is the Laughing Man plot arc. Instead, it follows a formulaic style that makes us support the Section 9 team going after various cases around the world. An argument against the show’s credit that the Stand Alone episodes deviate the main focus of the Complex episodes that chronicle the Laughing Man plot arc, but I would argue that the Stand Alone episodes are essential to deal with a considerable amount of character development for our main characters. Some of the episodes offer memorable story arcs that aren’t important to the overall narrative, but they continuously show how immensely well crafted the writing is in not only the dialogue but of how well put together the world is in the show. What’s so great about the world of Stand Alone Complex is the subtle details the writers put into the account, such as the political and social plateau of how the world works that truly make it a living breathing world and not a superficial one.
As with character development goes, Stand Alone Complex stands out in how it gives a lot of time to put forth plenty of depth with each on-screen character. This doesn’t just apply with the main characters, many of the side characters in each episode that we come across have a deep level of characterization to where they aren’t just these one-sided antagonists who do evil, they’re just ordinary people who are in this situation because of the society they’re living in. About each specific main character, they all have their own uniquely written personalities that show off their presence in the show. Handled with great care and precision, they all play out so well with each other that make you care so much for their struggles and relationships as coworkers trying to handle any given situation they meet. Chemistry is the crucial part in tying together a well-rounded cast of characters and Stand Alone Complex hits the nail on that part exquisitely. Batou and Kusanagi are especially two of the best characters, only by how well the chemistry is between the two from their interactions and personalities.
What many consider the most poignant in the Ghost in the Shell saga is its music. Out comes famed composer Yoko Kanno producing all the music in Stand Alone Complex and provides a profoundly layered texture into the overall atmosphere in the show. Shows typically set in a futuristic setting relies heavily on electronic sounding orchestration mixed in to feel more natural within the landscape of the environment. While there are indeed a lot of that to experience through the ears, Yoko’s brilliant blend of Jazz, Electronica, and Classical musicianship that combine each other amazingly well to give the soundtrack it’s own unique style that she is widely known for. Although I find Kenji Kawai’s score in the Ghost in the Shell movie left more of a profound impact on me in how it incorporates a lot of dark ambiance to the atmosphere, there is no denying the creativity that Yoko put into the score and ignoring it completely would be insane when discussing the show.
Usually anime movies have the upper hand as having stellar animation and art while TV anime have a limited capacity in the level of budget that film studios have. There are, of course, exceptions to this and Stand Alone Complex is one of them. Sure the animation isn’t as fluid as the movie, but how the art’s quality perfectly compliments the ascetic vision that the artists were going for, it’s a real accomplishment to experience. How the city looked, the characters all having their distinct look that makes them recognizable the moment we see them, and how the 3D models of the machines flow with the 2D animation of the characters work each other sublimely.
It is haphazard to call Ghost in the Shell an action show since it relies heavily on Noir aspects of tone and pacing, unlike in your typical action show where the pacing is more fast-paced in that respect. However, once it does delve into action territory, that is where the animation and sound take it to the next level of technical genius. The fluid motions involving characters fighting each other still hold up to this day than many other action anime out there in terms of animated fighting sequences and gunfights. Sound effects of machines and gunfire feel very authentic and real that puts you on the edge of your seat as you’re transported into the scene. So yeah like I said, the show on the technical level is surprisingly still amazing to look at as it once was ten years ago.
One other aspect of Ghost in the Shell that is often noted when discussing the series is its profound philosophical themes. In the movie, it delved into the ideas of consciousness and ethics of A.I., while Stand Alone Complex is mostly centered on political corruption and conspiracy theories that involve the book “The Catcher in the Rye.” The one part where it does delve deeper into is when we follow the Tachikomas and how they describe the “Ghost” in each machine through their A.I. Oddly enough, it works even though these childlike voiced machines seem as though they were there for comic relief. With regards to the political themes thrown into the plot, it doesn’t have nearly as much impact as the writers thought it would have considering how it’s told through a conventional style of storytelling and not try to seem as though they wanted to make a big political statement out of it. That’s not the same as saying that it’s a significant knock on the show, but it’s something that I felt would’ve been much stronger.
Whatever the case, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex will surely leave a strong impression on people on what makes a story stand-out as one of the most well-crafted entries in writing great characters and a large detailed world. It is by no means a show that you can like for the action or the great animation because that is only one-third of what makes Stand Alone Complex so deep in its overall philosophy and story. Well written character progression, great world-building, and fantastic animation all combined into one glorious experience that will inspire anyone who wants to get into writing stories for years to come.
4: Koukaku Kidoutai: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG
English: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG
Japanese: 攻殻機動隊 S.A.C. 2nd GIG
MAL Score: 8.53
Following the closure of the “Laughing Man” case, Section 9 is re-established by Japan’s newly elected Prime Minister, Youko Kayabuki, to combat the persistent threat of cyber-terrorism.
A group calling themselves “The Individual Eleven” has begun committing acts of terror across Japan. While Motoko Kusanagi, Daisuke Aramaki, Batou, and the other members of Section 9 investigate this new menace, the Japanese government faces a separate crisis, as foreign refugees displaced by the Third World War seek asylum in Japan. But as the members of the special-ops team continually encounter Gouda Kazundo—a leading member of the Cabinet Intelligence Service—in their hunt, they begin to suspect that he may be involved, and that the events of the refugee crisis and The Individual Eleven may be more connected than they realize…
One of the keys to creating a successful story is innovation, in particular, creating something that is both interesting and relevant, but approached from a different perspective. Of all the genres of the storytelling medium, science fiction is the only one that holds up a mirror to a possible future be it good or bad. It’s for this reason that the genre is often lauded and derided, sometimes by the same person, as science fiction is predictory by nature, in other words, it posits how humans would behave in certain circumstances.
During the last twenty years there have been numerous sci-fi tales in one form or another, many of which came about because of the end of the millenium. Some of them were simply terrible, whilst some were only average. Of the good ones, only a few had a lasting influence on the stories that came after. One of those is Ghost in the Shell.
Following the phenomenal success of the original movie and the TV series Stand Alone Complex, director and chief writer Kamiyama Kenji, together with the staff of Production I.G., formulated the direction in which the story would progress. What they needed, according to Kamiyama, was a completely different direction to the first series, with new goals, a new focus, and a chance to explore the world of GitS. After discussions with Oshii Mamoru it was decided that, in light of the events of 9/11, the issue of war could no longer be avoided.
This decision ultimately paved the way for a sequel that is not only superior to the original, but one that is also far more relevant to modern society.
Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd Gig is set several months after the end of Stand Alone Complex. At this point in time Section 9 is training, however the changes to the Special Forces bill mean that they are still not a legal force, and their status is akin to that of a terrorist organistion. The chief, Aramaki Daisuke, is attempting to resolve this but, like any modern society, the paperwork needs to be in order (gotta love bureaucracy).
During this time, a new Prime Minister hascome to power, and she has promised to fix the problems caused by crippling taxes and the waves of Asian refugees who are coming to Japan because of the Fourth World War (or, the Second Vietnamese War).
One of the areas where 2nd Gig deviates from SAC is that the story is based far more on world events and history than before. SAC is essentially the platform from upon which this series stands, and it’s advisable to watch that series first before watching this one as the viewer is then familiar with the characters and the work of Section 9. Unlike SAC, the focus in 2nd Gig isn’t on the work of Section 9, but rather on the society itself. I mentioned in my review of the first series that the phenomenon of Cyber Brain Sclerosis was also a metaphor for the gradual deterioration of society, and while SAC alluded to this, here it is made all too clear.
2nd Gig is nothing if not brutal in a certain sense. The series has a more defined sense of plausibility than anything before, and also a sense of inevitability. The power plays, politics, machinations, plots and plans are as complex and devious as they were in SAC, however here they have more of an edge to them because of the parallels with real world events. There is a lot of action in 2nd Gig, however like SAC, the action is not the important part of the show. The focus is on political and social movement, so when the action happens it’s usually the result of a series of circumstances or plans. Here, taking action is an effect for the most part, not a cause, and this is one of the key plot elements in the story as the “reactionary” mentality of society is tested by the Individual 11.
As with SAC, and any other GitS project for that matter, the pacing and flow of the story is excellent. Each aspect of the plot is very clearly covered, used and acted upon. Each element of the story is involved and well thought out, especially in relation to other elements. In this respect the series shares a few things with SAC’s Laughing Man Arc, however this aspect is carried here for 26 episodes with almost no let up.
One interesting point to note is that the history given in 2nd Gig is the same as that given in the Appleseed Databook. This suggests that both stories take place at different times in Earth’s history and, when one considers the technology used and applied in Appleseed, it gives the entire GitS story a slightly different perspective.
In terms of visuals, 2nd Gig is nothing short of excellent. The animation is ever so subtly better than SAC, especially the blending of 2d and 3d, with movements and actions flowing as freely as they did before, but without any of the clashes that occured from time to time. The colour scheme is extremely well suited, and reflects the grim reality of the story, while the level of detail in the back and foregounds pushes the bar even higher than it was before. The visual effects are also excellent, and way above those used in other sci-fi series.
In addition to this, the art direction is superb throughout the series, especially in the smaller moments before action is taken. In one episode the team from Section 9 is seen gearing up to respond to a hostage taking. The animation and detail in this one sequence in particular, highlights the level of detail and quality, as well as the sense of realism that Kamiyama was aiming for.
Sound is, once again, way above par. The effects are extremely well used and, whilst some people may be a little overwhelmed by some of the explosions, most will find them quite satisfying. One thing I do like about the effects in both series is that of the bullets fired from different guns, as they do sound different to the naked ear (because they are).
As I’ve already talked about the voice acting in my review of SAC, I’ll skip that part as the acting in 2nd Gig is at least equal to the first series, and the main roles are essentially the same. I will, however, mention Koyama Rikiya (who plays Hideo Kuze), as he gives the character a kind of reserved charm that is very much in keeping with the story.
The music is, once again, composed by the one and only Kanno Yoko, and her style and flair is such that the series just wouldn’t be the same without her compositions. The OP, “Rise” (sung by Origa once again), has actually split opinion as to which of the two is the better song – “Rise” or “Inner Universe” (personally I love them both). The ED, “Living Inside the Shell” (sung by Steve Conte), is also a great track, but I have to admit that I prefer “Lithium Flowers” from SAC.
One thing to note about the OP and ED for 2nd Gig is that it actually has three of each. The original broadcast featured the two tracks mentioned above, however the second, terrestrial, broadcast featured two different tracks. The second OP, “Christmas in the Silent Forest” (sung by Illiara Graziano), is a more haunting track than the martial “Rise”, and has a very Bjork-esque quality about it. The ED, “Snyper” (sung by Iliara Graziano and Steve Conte), has much the same feel as the OP.
The third OP and ED, “Torukia” (sung by Gabriella Robin), and “I Do” (sung by Iliara Graziano), only appear in the final episode.
As far as the characters go (and it’s pretty damn far to be honest), they are simply astonishing. Because of the groundwork laid by the movie and SAC, the each member of Section 9 is an almost complete persona from the start of the show. Now, hardcore fans of character development probably won’t like what I’m about to say next, but the truth is the truth. Sometimes character development gets in the way of the story proper, something which we have all seen happen in other anime. The fact that almost every character is not only an adult, but also an almost fully realised characterisation, means that there is nothing to hold back the story. Granted there are times when the characters come into sharp focus, but the series deals with these times with aplomb, grace, and sometimes violence.
I have seen, on occasion, people remark that the episodes that focus on a particular character are often slow and boring. I disagree with this view as, in any story, there are occasions when a character becomes more “audience friendly” and accessible. These “slow” episodes also help modify the pace of the story as a whole, and invite new routes down which it could progress.
I will freely admit that I actually prefer 2nd Gig to SAC. This isn’t because I found SAC inferior though, it’s simply because I related more to the events, action, social and politcal movements and impact, and overall sense of realism in the second series. Where SAC focused on both society and individuality, this also did the same, but from a slightly different angle. One of the things that I have been impressed by in both series is how, in the main story arcs, the “bad guy” isn’t quite as evil and bloodthisrty as we initially believe him to be, something which calls the definition of “evil” into question.
This is, like every other part of the GitS franchise, a superb anime. The blend of action, drama (both political and otherwise), intrigue and mystery is on a completely different level to most other anime.
As with SAC, 2nd Gig continues to be an intelligent series for intelligent people. In addition to that it is also a scathing criticism of how wealthy nations have coped with the global refugee crisis, as well as a visionof how bad things can get if society is not more aware of it’s own failings.
Just when one thought that with ‘Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence’ and ‘Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex’, this franchise had reached its pinnacle, Studio I.G. came up with GiTS: SAC 2ng Gig.
It carries over the same qualities that made the first series such a brilliant watch – an excruciatingly complex plot with conspiracy, intrigue and plenty of action and smashing music. The reason why this tops the first season is the more personal feel. Character development, that was mostly sidelined in the first season, is present aplenty in the 2nd gig. You feel you’re delving into the lives of the men and woman of Section 9. You get a glimpse of the pasts of the clandestine characters all while maintaining the cloak-and-dagger mystery.
The series also explores several political and moral issues of governance and right and wrong. It does not preach, there are no absolutes, and there is no such thing as a perfect political set up. The series maintains a hue of grey on all these matters, and tastefully so.
If you liked the first series, you absolutely must watch the 2ng series. If you haven’t I recommend you watch the 1st gig before embarking on this one. The series ends in a perfect set-up for the new GiTS: SAC Solid State Society movie, which by the way, was quite disappointing, but nevertheless a great addition to the GiTS family. I’m not going to review SSS because if you’re already hooked onto Stand Alone Complex, you won’t be able to resist watching it.
We open with Section 9 on standby, waiting for the official order that will allow them to go back into action. A group calling themselves the Individual Eleven has stormed the Chinese embassy and taken hostages. Aramaki manages to get the Prime Minister’s approval and the group moves in, cementing their resurrection. Shortly thereafter, the refugee issue begins becoming more and more of a problem and the Individual Eleven name seems to keep popping up in disparate incidents relating to the refugees in some way, along with a strange mark that only a select few know about. Section 9 sets out to discover the truth behind these incidents and try to assuage the tensions with the refugees, before they turn into a full scale war.
I have two issues with the narrative here. The first, and lesser of the two, is that its big climax retreads one of the big tragic moments from the first series. The execution is different and the moment is still good but it is a bit cheapened as a consequence of being a variation of something we saw in the last series. Then we have the implied history betwixt the Major and one of the major antagonists, Kuze. Narratively, there’s not much reason for this to be there. It barely comes into play within the story. It feels like a thinly veiled excuse to have Motoko be distracted and even that is only important for one major scene. Overall, that element is just a bit sloppy and mostly pointless.
Aside from those aspects, the story in this is really strong. It emphasises a more cohesive narrative in contrast to the first series’ more stand alone, largely episodic missions where the main plot came into play for some episodes and not for others. This does have the benefit of letting the situation develop and worsen a lot more noticeably while building on the pre-established tensions. It takes quite a few twists and turns that keep you really invested. The pacing is actually really good too. The series never feels like it’s dragging or like it’s overly hectic. It’s also really compelling to see Section 9 struggle to try and gain the upper hand against our main antagonist.
The series retains a strong cast. The more minor characters from Section 9 get to develop a bit more. The major characters are still really compelling and well developed. The various minor characters that get added to the roster have verisimilitude. Honestly, the biggest problem is with the major antagonists. While they do feel like actual people, they’re also a bit under-developed. Especially when you compare them to the Laughing Man from the first series. Which is odd since he got significantly less screen time.
The artwork and animation are amazing. The visual effects are stellar. The action sequences are intense and really radical. Even the hacking sequences are really visually intense. The various set pieces, futuristic tech and the like are all really well designed. The character designs are good and the Major’s absurd one piece bathing suit/ leather jacket combination has been banished to the Gamindustri Graveyard, or wherever it is stupid outfits go when they stop getting used.
The actors do a fantastic job. Saka Osamu, Ootsuka Akio, Tanaka Atsuko, Yamadera Kouichi and the various other actors all give superb performances. The music is great, adding to the atmosphere for the series.
Motoko’s girlfriend from the first series doesn’t really show up in this. Nor do they give us any other type of ho-yay. So, we don’t get any.
Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig is not quite as good as the first series. It suffers from some relatively minor narrative problems and some slightly under-developed antagonists. That being said, it’s still a fantastic series. My final rating is going to be a 9/10. Next week I’ll continue looking at requests with One Punch Man.
3: Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch
English: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
Japanese: コードギアス 反逆のルルーシュ
MAL Score: 8.71
In the year 2010, the Holy Empire of Britannia is establishing itself as a dominant military nation, starting with the conquest of Japan. Renamed to Area 11 after its swift defeat, Japan has seen significant resistance against these tyrants in an attempt to regain independence.
Lelouch Lamperouge, a Britannian student, unfortunately finds himself caught in a crossfire between the Britannian and the Area 11 rebel armed forces. He is able to escape, however, thanks to the timely appearance of a mysterious girl named C.C., who bestows upon him Geass, the “Power of Kings.” Realizing the vast potential of his newfound “power of absolute obedience,” Lelouch embarks upon a perilous journey as the masked vigilante known as Zero, leading a merciless onslaught against Britannia in order to get revenge once and for all.
STORY – Before I saw this series, it was described to me on multiple occasions as "Death Note with mechas." After seeing it, however, I am inclined to disagree. The similarities between the two series are superficial at best, and though I can see why people would draw the comparison, I don’t really think that dis/liking one means that you’ll dis/like the other. But anyway, unlike Death Note, I wouldn’t say that the story in Code Geass is particularly notable or unique. It’s actually rather straightforward and even a little cliche, but that’s exactly why this is such a well done series — the barebones storyline is handled in a refreshing and new way that grabs the viewer’s attention. There are enough twists and turns involved to keep you on the edge of your seat. The pacing is excellent and nothing feels rushed or drawn out. Indeed, the progression up to the conclusion is especially brilliant. (It’s a cliffhanger "ending," but oh, it’s just a fantastic cliffhanger.)
The series is also appealing in its uncanny ability to mix genres. Yes, this is a mecha series, but it really doesn’t have to be. Yes, CLAMP did the character designs and there are some very shoujo elements (read: homolust), but there are very shounen rivalries and some pretty epic battle scenes too. Everybody wins! Additionally, because of the number of characters, the story allows for a number of small subplots. I was very happy with how this was handled in particular because all of the subplots relate and affect the main plot directly, whether by revealing some bit of information to both the characters and the viewer or by pushing forward interesting character development. Everything is well thought out and wonderfully executed, so despite the fact that "strong-willed person with plans to change the world receives mysterious power that helps facilitate his goals" isn’t a very unique storyline… Code Geass makes it work.
Also. Code Geass utilizes the "best friends trying to kill each other" plotline, and I’m a sucker for that plotline.
CHARACTER – The characters in this series are rather varied. Some are very plain and one-dimensional, while others have an amazing complexity to them that makes them very life-like. I’ll be honest. I’ve become somewhat infatuated with Lelouch as a character (and am rather biased as a result). To me, he is very much a human character — he has emotions, opinions, a unique point of view, and some very serious flaws, all of which make him incredibly easy to relate to and to sympathize with. He is easily the most complex character in the series, and he feels real to me, even with his supernatural powers and his genius-level intellect. This ability to make the audience relate to him is also probably the series’ greatest strength and the main reason why the story is able to remain relevant and interesting despite the fact that there aren’t too many new ideas plotwise.
Suzaku would probably be second in line for complexity after Lelouch, though his sense of justice might be called cliche at first (along with Nunnally’s and Euphemia’s), and his hax-level physical prowess is somehow harder to accept than Lelouch’s genius-level intelligence. It’s harder to appreciate Suzaku’s depth at first, partially because he is presented as Lelouch’s main obstacle and the audience’s sympathies are with Lelouch, but a great deal is revealed about his character throughout the course of the series, and he becomes an amazing foil to his rival. Their conflicting ideologies and philosophies are fascinating if you really look into it, and gay as it sounds, they really do compliment each other very well.
Much of the rest of the cast seems to fall into typical archetypes — there’s your adorable little sister, your mad scientist and his assistant, your cheerful schoolgirls, your best friend, your most loyal soldier, your second-in-command, your village idiot, your… really creepy lesbian girl? Despite the generic-sounding descriptions, most of the characters are actually pretty fun, or at the very least, interesting. C.C. provides snarky commentary. Shirley spreads innocent schoolgirl love. Nunnally is so moe you’ll die. Jeremiah is a good butt of all jokes. Little bits of backstory are tossed in here and there to separate them from the crowd, but it’s never enough to actually intrude, and the wide range of characters lets you settle into the world pretty well too; after all, what universe is complete without an animal mascot that shows up now and again?
ARTWORK & ANIMATION – I wasn’t too impressed with CLAMP’s character designs at first (noodleboys!), but as always seems to be the case, they gradually grew on me, and I remembered just how pretty X was. CLAMP just knows how to make everyone look amazingly sexy, male or female. I really loved how they did all of the facial expressions in the series though, especially for Lelouch. Seriously, that guy had some of the most awesome crazy expressions, some of the most amazingly touching sadface expressions, and of course, some of the most amusing WTF expressions. The mecha designs for the Knightmare Frames were also pretty awesome. I dig the whole rollar blade thing, and some of the technologies they come up with are neat, if a little over-the-top. The animation is fluid and smooth for the most part and very few things stood out as being bad.
MUSIC – Initially, I wasn’t particularly fond of any of the OP/EDs for Code Geass except the first ending by ALI PROJECT because 1) they’re awesome, and 2) Yuki Kajiura’s style seemed to suit the series very well. The screaming violins both convey the high status of Britannia and the intensity of the emotions in the series. The rest of the themes seemed lackluster in comparison, but though I was never a huge fan of FLOW, "COLORS" kind of grew on me after a while. The final insert song, "Innocent Days" by Hitomi is pretty nice as well. Very thoughtful, very poignant, very fitting. The background music during the series was negligible for the most part; there is some pretty generic battle build-up type music and other appropriate, but rather typical, themes. Still, there’s some neat classical/opera stuff, and the "All hail Brittania!" theme is definitely awesome.
VOICE ACTING – I’ve seen all of Code Geass subbed and most of it dubbed. Although I was incredibly turned off by Johnny Yong Bosch’s role as Lelouch initially, it kind of grew on me, and now I think it fits well enough, though I do wish he’d change his voice a little more when Lelouch is Zero (make it a little deeper?). Suzaku’s dub voice surprised me with how appropriate it was too. One of the things I really wish we could replicate in English though, is the subtle differences in manners between characters, between Lelouch and Suzaku at various stages of their lives, and between Lelouch and Zero. In Japanese, when Lelouch and Suzaku are children, they refer to themselves with "boku" and "ore" respectively. As teenagers, the pronouns are swapped, with Lelouch using "ore" (Zero uses "watashi") and Suzaku using "boku." Euphemia uses "watakushi." I’ll skip the grammar lesson (go wiki "Japanese pronouns"), but suffice to say that these differences provide a lot of very interesting insight into each of the characters. It’s really too bad English isn’t nearly as interesting.
The rest of the voices in the dub are pretty average, perhaps the low end of average, with a stereotypically high-pitched girly voice for Nunnally that is amazingly annoying, and very forgettable voices for virtually all the female characters (Milly, Shirley, and Kallen all kind of sound the same). I was very impressed with Lloyd’s dub voice though, even if nothing will ever amount to his amazing original voice, which is uh, amazing! Seriously. One of the most amusing voices I’ve ever heard. Jun Fukuyama’s voice for Lelouch I found to be a bit too deep/old sounding initially, but that grew on me as well, and I really love the badassity of his voice for Zero. Suzaku’s original voice sounds a little generic at first, but it grows with his character. There’s a good bit of Engrish in the Japanese version as well, which is always fun. I don’t think you can ever get tired of their "Yes, my lord(o)!" or their "All hail Britannia!"
Overall, I’d say the original is damn awesome, and the dub is pretty watchable — always a plus, right?
OVERALL – I really love this series, and I definitely did not see that happening. Honestly, I found the first episode incredibly underwhelming: the opening sequence made it look like a series I wouldn’t be interested in watching at all, and all of the expository really turned me off…but the second episode? That was so much more epic than I could have ever predicted, and I was pretty much won over after that. I’m just a sucker for chess analogies, I guess! Seriously though, good story, good characters, good animation, and good music! Mechas, politics, rivalry and comradery, strained friendships, love and hate, complex ideologies, and blowing shit up! What more could you want? 😀
For some people, the plot, characters, and music alone is bad enough to make the show unwatchable. For others, the high action, flashy animation, and drama will be more than enough to make the show a favorite of all time though I like everything about Code Geass.
Story: Lelouch Lamperouge appears to be a typical high school student at Ashford Academy in the Britannian controlled Area 11 (formerly named Japan.) But he’s actually a prince in the Britannian imperial family, and seventeenth in line to the throne. He develops a hatred for the emperor of Britannia and the entire imperial establishment, vowing to one day destroy them for the death of his mother and cripple of his sister. After an encounter with a mysterious young woman named C.C., Lelouch gains the power of Geass, which grants him the ability to force anyone to do what he wishes. With this ability, Lelouch becomes a mysterious figure named Zero and begins his battle against the Britannian Empire.
Code Geass have too many loose and cliff hanging ends. The end are always left unexplained, leaving the viewer with questions not only about various subplots but also about several key elements of the storyline. However, what makes up for this is the plot and character developments. Every episode is surprising and leave you eager to watch the next episode.
It seems Code Geass mainly focus on the drama, emotion, and the heart-breaking moments. Geass ends up being not so much a story with a certain plot and characters but rather a series of exciting, exaggerated but well-crafted, incredulous and definitely memorable scenes.
Characters: The characters, are so great and awesome that it’s hard to stop enjoying them. There are characters that are a goody too shoe, outright intolerable that will make you want to strangle and kill them off the show. The characters are all so great that something unexpected might happen to them. There are also characters that are naive, filled with too much hate and/or love but in the end, you’ll have a character you like or maybe even love. My favorite character, of course, are C.C., Kallen, and Lelouch.
Art & Animation: Another good thing about Code Geass is its high production values and colorful animation. The character designs, created by CLAMP, are great and well drawn. The animation may not be great but it is detailed, vivid, and lively. The fights aren’t as smooth or fluid as it could be but it’s flashy, colorful, which is very much fitting considering the nature of the series.
Sound: The voice acting also plays a role in the show’s success. Characters like Zero and Suzaku may be outrageous or cliched but their voice actors fit the characters so well that they are able to sell the characters. One of my favorite voice actor, Jun Fukuyama, does a great job playing the key character of Lelouch/Zero. His performance, especially how well he change from the carefree high school student to the more sinister and manipulative rebel is vital to keeping the series enjoyable and entertaining. Fukuyama is usually playing two characters and does it absolutely convincingly. There’s nothing to complain about of the music either as the background music is very good and it fits right in it. The openings for Code Geass are my favorite. It’s very paced and exciting.
Enjoyment: I’ve seen Geass more than 5 times in a row already. (Not counting season 2) This is a nice, great anime. With the non-stop action, you’ll be wanting to see which side will win and lose. For one moment you can be smiling, then crying the next. Happens to me sometimes.
Overall: Code Geass is a awesome anime that will surely gather different opinions from viewers and other reviewers other than myself. I’ve seen and heard a lot of people saying SUNRISE has done an awesome job and it’s not because of the use of mecha, action or drama, but rather how effectively it appeals to that certain aspect of anime that is not often addressed and yet is one of the main purposes of anime: entertainment. If your main interest in anime is in the quality of the storytelling or the characters, then Geass is probably not for you. However, if you’re in it to have fun or for some good laughs, then take a look at this anime. You wont be disappointed. Indeed Geass is a rare accomplishment.
Let me take a step back for a moment, because the truth of the matter is that Code Geass brought with it a genuinely compelling concept, one that could have done wonders if the creators at Sunrise had known what the hell they were doing. It takes place in an alternate universe where a version of the British Empire called Britannia, through various quirks of fate, manages to endure and thrive into the 21st century. After witnessing the assasination of his mother and having his and his sister’s lives ruined by his father, an exiled Britannian prince living under the assumed name Lelouch Lamperouge, out of a desire for revenge against the emperor, rises to become a revolutionary leader in an occupied Japan.
This concept could have gone in any number of directions and in the right hands could have been turned into something truly remarkable. Unfortunately Goro Tanaguchi and his team at Sunrise either didn’t realize the potential of what they’d come up with or were simply too caught up in making a commercially successful product to care. For, you see, although the basic premise survived to see the light of day it has been chained to and obscured by a wide variety of disparate concepts and ideas, none of which add anything of substance to the proceedings. This is a program that wants to be a mecha action series at the same time it wants to be a war drama at the same time it wants to be a romance/harem series at the same time it wants to be a high school comedy while above all else its trying to be Death Note with a copy of V for Vendetta in its pocket. It all gives the impression of a program that’s so terribly frightened of being disliked by any one subset of the anime fandom that it rushes to appeal to every conceivable kind of viewer and as a result is never truly exceptional at any of the things it attempts.
Giant robots, for example, are thrown in for no better reason than to draw in and satisfy the needs of the giant robot fandom. I don’t have anything against mecha per se but neither do I have any great love for it leaving me rather indifferent to it overall. All I ask is that it adds something to the experience, that there is some concrete purpose for their presence motivated by the narrative, that the giant robots aren’t merely props easily interchangeable with any other fantastical weaponry. Full Metal Panic provides, in its continuity, a fairly detailed justification for how its variation on the giant robot concept came into being. Patlabor provides a similarly believable rationale as well. Ride Back would have had a wonderful thematic connection to its motorcycle/robot hybrids had the creators had the sense to utilize a specific scene outside of the end credits. Code Geass has no such virtue. The “Knightmare frames” come across as a ploy just as empty and cynical as Gonzo’s additions of giant robots to their adaptations of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo.
The story itself runs into trouble fairly quickly. In the first episode, Lelouch is inspired to begin his campaign against Britannia when he obtains a supernatural ability called Geass from a mysterious girl wearing a tight-fitting straitjacket. This ability allows him to control the will and actions of anyone he chooses with very few actual limitations. All he needs is direct eye contact with his intended victim and that’s it. By comparison the Death Note has a whole page full of rules and restrictions on its use. As a result, a lot of Death Note’s intrigue is generated from the various ways Light Yagami finds to work with or around those rules. The Geass is almost too powerful by comparison. As a result it makes his decision to start a rebellion in Japan as a means of gaining revenge against his father in Britannia seem a very roundabout way of doing things. It would seem more effective to simply hop a plane home, Geass his way past security to get to his father and that would be the end of it. Its not like Lelouch doesn’t accomplish much the same thing with his brother Clovis at the end of the second episode. Of course, if Lelouch were to actually follow the course simple logic would dictate then he wouldn’t have started his rebellion and Code Geass wouldn’t have had the opportunity to indulge in enough overblown spectacle to shame Michael Bay.
This problem is further compounded by the revelation in the second episode that Lelouch is some sort of super-genius strategist. It’s never explained to any degree where his ability comes from, whether the creators want the viewer to assume that its some sort of blood inherited trait or that he was simply educated on the subject. The most the viewer is allowed to understand is that Lelouch’s “strategic brilliance” has something to do with the fact that he’s good at chess, which, if you actually accept that, only explains a fraction of the schemes that he devises. In the end, as a character Lelouch comes across as little more than a plot devise, a strategy generating machine that provides the series with its single greatest source of overblown spectacle.
Out of the rest of the cast the only character who made, or I should say had the potential to leave in impression on me was the anti-Britannian rebel Kallen. She receives an entire episode devoted to her background as the daughter of a Japanese mother and a Britannian father. Much is made of her identification with the Japanese side of her parentage and how her deceased brother figures into things and there is indeed potential for something interesting here. Unfortunately nothing is ever done with any of these elements. Everything that was brought up in that episode is quickly shelved and never brought up again.
It should be noted that a good portion of the issues I have with the show stem from the fact that Code Geass possesses all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the skull. The result is a heavily calculated experience where the hands of the creators can be clearly seen picking and choosing which ideas or scenarios would have the greatest impact regardless of whether or not they make any sense (coincidences are invoked to the point of absurdity). The first episode alone depicts an ethnic cleansing (a scenario the series portrays twice in its first season) and a bloody mass suicide sure to satisfy the more ghoulish members of the viewership. Fanservice is plentiful and obvious with only a scant few female cast members escaping the first season with their dignity, if they ever had any to begin with.
On the technical side of things there isn’t really a whole lot I can complain about. The animation is smooth well done. The color scheme employed can be a little too bright and cheery for its own good with purple mechs and a city that is lit with pink lighting at night but that is a minor complaint overall. Character designs come courtesy of CLAMP so if you like their artwork you’ll like what you see here. If you don’t like CLAMP then there isn’t anything in Code Geass that will convince you otherwise. The soundtrack, credited to Hitomi Kuroishi and Kotaro Nakagawa, isn’t anything spectacular but it is nonetheless serviceable. It is a competent presentation overall, if only.
2: Cowboy Bebop
English: Cowboy Bebop
MAL Score: 8.77
In the year 2071, humanity has colonized several of the planets and moons of the solar system leaving the now uninhabitable surface of planet Earth behind. The Inter Solar System Police attempts to keep peace in the galaxy, aided in part by outlaw bounty hunters, referred to as “Cowboys.” The ragtag team aboard the spaceship Bebop are two such individuals.
Mellow and carefree Spike Spiegel is balanced by his boisterous, pragmatic partner Jet Black as the pair makes a living chasing bounties and collecting rewards. Thrown off course by the addition of new members that they meet in their travels—Ein, a genetically engineered, highly intelligent Welsh Corgi; femme fatale Faye Valentine, an enigmatic trickster with memory loss; and the strange computer whiz kid Edward Wong—the crew embarks on thrilling adventures that unravel each member’s dark and mysterious past little by little.
Well-balanced with high density action and light-hearted comedy, Cowboy Bebop is a space Western classic and an homage to the smooth and improvised music it is named after.
The story is set in a space western setting – a genre and setting I’m loving more and more for each show I watch that falls under the genre. We follow two bounty hunters, Spike and Jet, who own a ship called the Bebop. They travel the Solar system, chasing wanted criminals to earn money. Along the way, they also pick up two women; the debt-laden Faye Valentine and the playful kid and computer genius Edward (yes, Ed’s a girl).
Each episode brings about a new bounty which they chase after, and while that doesn’t sound too exciting to watch 26 episodes in a row, you’ll end up loving the show. All the different events makes for a certain degree of unpredictability, and you’ll sometimes wonder how things will end. However, that alone is not enough to give the story the rating I’ve given it. So why have I given that rating? Let’s continue…
One of the things that elevate the show a bit above the rest is the manner in which the main cast’s pasts are explored. It’s not like one flashback episode and you understand everything about how they are today. In one episode you might get one piece, and then the next one in another episode, and it’s not until the final three episodes of the show that everything falls in place. This way of executing it makes you want to watch another episode, so that you can find out more about the characters (some may say that this falls in under "Character", but the manner in which the pasts are explored are more "Story" than "Character", IMO). Now, that’s so far a 9 for the story. Why did it deserve a 10?
The answer is easy: the way they executed many scenes in the show. The contrasts which you get to see between, music, the setting of scenes and what’s really happening just gives the story that extra edge deserving of a perfect score.
The characters are all really good and interesting fellows. Though they every now and then reminded me of characters from other shows, they preserved that originality which gave a feel that they were, if not completely, then at least a little bit more real than most characters out there. The way their pasts intertwine with the future and how everything ends with them confronting and settling open ends from their pasts is also something that’s impressive to watch. I don’t really have anything more to say than "perfect".
The animation is, for a 90s anime, stunningly good. The detail put into backgrounds and surroundings is really good, and I also love how good lighting effects and shading are at times. All of Ed’s strange movements are animated really nicely too. If there’s something negative, it’s the somewhat dull coloring (compared to today’s standards), as well as poor effects when traveling in hyperspace.
The soundtrack is also astounding! The music used for the show is so incredibly varied, and while keeping mostly to the more jazzy tunes, the soundtrack visits so many genres that it’s hard to not like at least a few pieces. What I also loved is the way the music was used not only as a medium to go with and amplify the mood, but also as a contrast to what’s happening in several scenes. All in all, it’s really amazing. Don’t have anything to say against voice acting and other sound effects either.
All in all Cowboy Bebop is an anime that’s in the top tier on the greatness scale, and a show I believe every anime fan should give a try.
To ‘Not ‘ voters (and you ” voters too): Feedback greatly appreciated =)
Cowboy bebop borrows much from western media and pop culture in general. his show pays homage to or references, subtly and overtly, things as disparate as Antonio Banderas, Bruce Lee, John Woo, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Convoy, Biggie Smalls, Donald Duck, various mythologies and folktales, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Bill Evans, Stray Cats, Alien, blaxploitation films, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Queen, George Clooney, Led Zeppelin, Django and other spaghetti westerns, Herbie Hancock, American and Japanese professional baseball, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Jean-Luc Godard, Batman, B.B. King, Beverly Hills 90210, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, The Unabomber, Heaven’s Gate and Marshall Applewhite, Kiss, film noir, The Beatles, Sleeping Beauty, Bonny & Clyde, Ziggy Stardust, Charlie Parker, Woody Allen, Star Trek, Cool Hand Luke, and Taxi Driver. I kid you not. And that’s not a complete list. References in character design and dialogue are forgivable, but when it straight up copies scenes and plots then I think it can be held against the show. I feel like I’ve seen Cowboy Bebop before, it’s just been packed into a pretty package. I enjoyed a lot of these homages, but that does not excuse the marked lack of creativity. The mere evocation of a masterpiece does not make a masterpiece. Quentin Tarantino is an example of someone who uses pastiche and cultural references well, and most importantly, his references and homages don’t make up his entire videography. There is far too little originality in Cowboy Bebop.
The fact is that Cowboy Bebop is the epitome of style over substance. I can appreciate it for its audiovisuals, but, to me, a show needs more than that to be a true masterpiece. Make no mistake though, it does have some of the best audiovisuals I’ve ever seen, and could arguably be considered a must-watch for that alone. The OST is good (despite also being a tad overrated,) the art is great, and the animation is extremely fluid. It should also be noted that Cowboy Bebop is one of the few anime that holds the distinction of having an English dub superior to the original Japanese. The atmosphere that the audiovisuals achieve is their greatest quality, and is distinct in almost every different setting. This is not done well in most space travel anime, and I have to applaud Cowboy Bebop for that achievement at least.
The main storyline consists of about 5 episodes, the rest of them being episodic individual stories. This wouldn’t be a huge problem, but the episodic stories were hit or miss, and they never measured up to the main plot. Some of the non-main episodes focus on a character and their past, and this is good, but most of them are completely pointless and could be removed without anybody noticing. One of them was about fighting an alien-fungus-fridge-monster, it was an interesting and silly parody of Alien, but it contributed nothing to plot or character development. Considering how character driven this show is, that’s a problem. There was also an entire episode paying homage to blaxploitation. Seeing as the allusion was presented in a more original way, and the episode showed a lot about Ed’s character, that one was not only forgivable, but it was one of my favorite episodes. Like I said, hit or miss. There is an episode about catching a super-dog. There is an episode about a virus that turns people into monkeys. There is an episode where they chase a bomber (Woody Allen) with some help from a transsexual looking trucker. At least 4 episodes were easily 10s, but more of them were closer to 5s. The first 4 episodes were particularly weak, which is a huge problem in a 2 cour anime. The anime may have had a good conclusion, but the sub-par exposition cannot be ignored.
The main crew was made up of interesting and entertaining characters, and they prevented the episodic nature of the show from being a complete flop, although there were some unanswered questions about Faye’s past in particular. Actually, strangely enough, the unanswered questions contributed to the splendid atmosphere. Everything had a rich backstory, but few flashbacks and no infodumps. This helped give the show its characteristic nostalgic atmosphere. One complaint I would have is that the main antagonist is simply not compelling, his motivations are somewhat unclear, and he’s just one dimensional. He also uses a katana, even though it’s the future, and somehow still manages to kick ass. He’s just very cliché and lame. The antagonist in the movie was very well done with his depth, motives, and parallels to Spike, and that makes me wish Vicious got the same treatment, as it would fit his character far better, and his character is far more important.
One thing you should understand is that the characters are often good examples of clichés done well. Jet, for instance, is the typical hard-boiled former cop, but he is also the most empathetic of the crew. He is a foil to Spike and is hard working, but they also parallel in many ways. Ed is the teen genius/tomboy and hacker with little depth, but she also serves as a foil to Spike and many of his views on life. Faye is like a mix of all of the other characters’ worst traits in terms of personality, but she still manages to be a sympathetic character. In fact, even though she keeps up her unpleasant exterior and despite her being the anime’s main source of fanservice, she arguably experiences more development than any other character. Still, they lack any sort of real innovation, in anime or otherwise.
Despite all my criticisms, Cowboy Bebop is cool. It’s very cool. The characters and aesthetics were compelling (for the most part) to the point where I even enjoyed some of the admittedly weaker episodes. I can’t give it a 10, it’s simply not a masterpiece. I can’t give it a 9, it’s not truly great. I can’t give it an 8, it’s too flawed and unoriginal. I don’t want to give it a 7, it was just too inconsistent. I have to settle on a 6.7 or so, which could be rounded either way. That said, an average of my story, art, sound, and character scores did give me around a 7.2.
Cowboy Bebop is enjoyable and it has wide appeal; I would probably recommend it to just about anybody. It was up and down in terms of quality, and it was similar to a slice-of-life in its episodic and relaxed nature and its lack of an explosive climax, but it was good. I liked how the anime takes place after the “important part” of the main characters’ lives is over, and nostalgia becomes a huge theme, seeing as it was the first anime I ever watched and it thus evokes a huge sense of nostalgia for me anyway. I loved the laid back atmosphere. The problem is that after looking through all of the episodes and rating them individually, I realized that the majority of it was nothing special. With a little restraint and reworking, Cowboy Bebop could have been the masterpiece that it is widely regarded as, and it does hold a special place in my heart regardless, even if that is only due to it being my first anime. That bias is probably why I choose to round the score to 7, rather than to 6, despite the fact that the latter is typically the better practice.
I am always willing to defend and justify my scores so leave me a comment if you disagree, and tell me why I’m wrong. I say that because this does seem to be a pretty uncommon score, even among those whose opinions I have great respect for. Keep in mind that a 7 is a generous and good score in any case.
“Fuck you! Cowboy Bebop is a classic! You’re not allowed to criticize it!”
The more astute viewers will note that I scored the series a 6, but the movie a 9. I kind of like Cowboy Bebop. It does do some things very right. It had the potential to be one of the greatest franchises ever. Alas, while its production values are unmatched, the writing . . . doesn’t always match up with the production. Because of this, the series ended up being a style-over-substance experience for me, but why was that?
The premise of CB is that in the late 21st century, mankind has started living in places in the solar system besides Earth. In this future are bounty hunters known as Cowboys. Cowboys do whatever they can to make cash to keep the food stockpile stocked and their spaceships running. The show follows one such group of Cowboys who pilot a ship called the Bebop. In the beginning, we meet Spike Spiegel, a former gangster, and Jet Black, a former cop. As the series progresses, the Bebop also has Ein, a super smart dog, Faye Valentine, a woman on the run, and Edward, a really, really, REALLY weird hacker girl. Cowboy Bebop has been described as a series that has a continuous plot, and has standalone episodes at the same time. Having seen the series, I can tell you that technically, most of the episodes aren’t standalone, but many of them are only connected by the core characters.
Here’s where one of my problems lie. When Cowboy Bebop is good, it’s really good. The setting is very mature; it never condescends to the audience. The action scenes are superbly well done, the dialog is believable (though cheesy at times), and the atmosphere really pulls you in. How many episodes are actually really good? Seven. If you count the movie as an episode, that brings it up to eight. Eight out of twenty-seven episodes were good. The rest were not.
The problem with most of the episodes is one of two things: one, it’s really boring, or, two, it’s so clichéd, you will be able to predict exactly what happens by the end after the first two minutes, or both. I have to be honest, a lot of the episodes of CB are just plain boring. If this wasn’t a “classic” and a more ordinary anime series, a lot of them would be branded as what they truly are; filler episodes. And if it’s not boring filler, it’s hackneyed.
Watanabe is known for being a huge fan of American cinema, and that’s obvious in CB. Unfortunately, he ripped off a lot of American movies virtually piecemeal. Now, you may not suspect it, but I am more knowledgeable of American cinema than I am Japanese animation. To describe it as best I can without spoiling, if you have seen at least one movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, John Woo, and Michael Mann, then you have already seen Cowboy Bebop in another format. This is actually a clever trick though; most anime fans reject Western pop culture, and may not notice this when watching CB, so they’ll think it’s “fresh” and “original”, when it’s fact, it’s actually MORE clichéd then most anime. But hey, when CB is exciting and isn’t (too) blatantly ripping off Hollywood, it’s worth watching.
At least, when the worthwhile characters are onscreen. I like the main character Spike a lot. He is the embodiment of cool, like a 21st century version of Steve McQueen. He’s cool, but he’s very human too. He’s reckless, he makes mistakes, but he knows how to charm people, and he also knows how to beat his targets. I also like Jet. He’s a constant worrywart, which is a funny contrast to his rough appearance. Some of the incidental characters are memorable too, (but usually only in the good episodes and movie). Something else I liked was the Bebop crew was not always a stable group, or nakama you could say. In most anime, when the heroes band together, nothing ever separates them. That doesn’t happen in CB. Sometimes, the crew gets in arguments, and sometimes, one of them will leave the Bebop for a time, and so on. It’s a touch of realism I appreciate.
However, some of the characters didn’t click with me. I never really cared for Faye. I don’t dislike her, but I don’t really care for her either. Edward is amusing, but she feels out of place in a series like this. The incidental characters in the less memorable episodes are just that, unmemorable. However, what I’m about to print in the next paragraph will anger thousands, possibly millions. (And maybe make hundreds say “Right on!”) Mind you, it’s just my opinion. Everything I print in these reviews is just my opinion; you don’t have to take it personally, but the following opinion of mine needs to be said:
Vicious is one of the lamest villains ever.
The main antagonist is a man known as Vicious, someone who’s still a part of the gang Spike came from. He’s cunning, ruthless . . . and is absolutely lame. What’s his motive? Does he just want power, or to mess with people? Even if so, why is he so boring to watch? The villain from the movie was a lot more interesting. Overall, you got two really good protagonists, some interesting chemistry between the protagonists, one-shot characters who are either interesting or not, and a forgettable antagonist. Yay.
And I haven’t even touched upon the ending yet! Short version, I don’t like CB’s ending. (More flames incoming! Duck and cover!) Now, the ending is not quite as bad as the ending for, say, Akira, or the anime version of Chobits. It does have a sense of finality to it, something most anime endings don’t have. However, I did not find it “legendary.” I found it disappointing. First of all, the ending is extremely predictable. It’s virtually telegraphed to you before it even happens. Not only that, when I saw it, my reaction was, ” . . . that’s it? Seriously, that’s IT?”
But I better move on to CB’s technical aspects before I get too letdown. Its artistry leaves no complaints. CB is probably the best-looking pre-digital anime I’ve ever seen. Even if you were to remake the series with digital enhancements, I doubt you could make it look better than it already is. Sumptuous backgrounds, top-notch character art, animation that ranges from above-average to really good, no off-model shots, this is a visual feast. The movie looks even better. It’s obvious a lot of care was put into the visuals of CB. My only being the primitive CGI, but you get used to it.
And now we touch upon CB’s greatest aspect; its soundtrack. It’s the sort of the soundtrack that makes you go, “Ah yeah, baby!” This is why you watch CB, the music. The music is the magnum opus of Yoko Kanno. A combination of jazz, blues, and rock, but it isn’t just any old jazz, blues, and rock, it’s GOOD jazz, blues, and rock. Everything from the opening, to the incidental music, to the endings, you get music that will set your soul on fire. The only anime I’ve seen whose soundtrack could rival CB’s is Death Note’s. Something I noticed about CB’s soundtrack is the music sounds more like music from albums rather than typical soundtrack music. Another smart move; most people are accustomed to listening to music from CD and MP3 albums as opposed to soundtracks, so when they hear CB’s music, it’ll be more familiar-sounding than most other anime soundtracks. Regardless, even if you hate CB, you gotta score this music.
CB is also famous for having what is perhaps the oldest English dub for an anime series that is considered god-like. I saw this on Adult Swim, and I can safely say, this is another masterpiece from Bandai and Bang Zoom. Every character sounds like how you would imagine them to, and the voices are neither wooden nor over-acted. All the different accents the characters have sound really cool too. I did sample the Japanese dub on the movie, and I will say, Spike and Jet sound really good in both Japanese and English, but I will never get used to Faye’s Japanese voice. Yeah, this is one you gotta see in English. (Though in retrospect, the Japanese performances aren’t bad, it just doesn’t click like the English dub)
While CB is still often regarded as a classic, I’m not the first to criticize it like so. There has been some backlash against CB in recent years. Some people complain it’s not “Japanese-y” enough, that it’s too Western. I mentioned that earlier, but there is another anime I’ve seen, Baccano, which is also very similar to American movies, but it was consistently entertaining, and not as predictable as CB, so I did not mind. Others have mentioned the same things I have, that it’s boring, the plot isn’t strong enough, it’s style over substance. This isn’t a disaster by any means, but I do have to say that, outside of the production values, CB is one of the most overrated anime I’ve seen. It’s not one of the worst, certainly not, but it’s not quite the experience I was promised either. To put it in other words, there were some episodes that I would score a 4 out of 10. And yet, there are some episodes, including the movie, that I would score a 9 out of 10. The 6 overall is just from mixing the good episodes with the bad.
I like to imagine that in an alternate dimension, CB was an OVA series instead of a tv series. All the episodes I do like, (# 2, 8, 12, 13, 17, 20, and 22) were released on separate OVAs, as well as a few others to bridge the plot gaps. Then a theatrical came out (Knocking on Heaven’s Door), and then another to end it all (The Real Folk Blues, albeit with a revised conclusion), and it would be grandiose. Alas, I don’t live in that universe. Hey, Shinichiro Watanabe likes drawing influence from Hollywood, right? What’s something it’s doing a lot of right now? Continuity reboots? He could still do that. I can dream, can’t I?
EDIT: This review was revised on 9/17/2015 to be less awkward to read.
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. Cowboy Bebop
3. Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch
4. Koukaku Kidoutai: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG
5. Koukaku Kidoutai: Stand Alone Complex
7. Cardcaptor Sakura
8. Serial Experiments Lain
9. Hokuto no Ken
10. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon S
11. Seihou Bukyou Outlaw Star
12. Wolf’s Rain
13. Tenkuu no Escaflowne
14. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon SuperS
15. The Big O
16. Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran
17. Dual! Parallel Lun-Lun Monogatari
18. Street Fighter II V
19. Kachou Ouji
20. Jinzou Ningen Kikaider The Animation
21. Gate Keepers
22. Aa! Megami-sama!: Chichaitte Koto wa Benri da ne
23. Clamp Gakuen Tanteidan
24. Battle Athletess Daiundoukai (TV)
25. Silent M bius
26. Hand Maid May