Archive for May, 2008

Early Impressions – Kaiba Analysis

Posted in anime, impressions with tags , , on May 24, 2008 by daeyeth

This is an early analysis of Kaiba (I’ve only seen the first four episodes so far) and will likely be weaved into a full-blown review once I finish the series. This anime is so unique and high quality, I couldn’t help myself and had to start out early. Impressions of Kaiba after this will follow the normal impressions format of episode by episode breakdowns.

“Kaiba” is a little known high-concept, sci-fi anime where memories are souls and can be transfered from one body to another. It is very reminiscent of classic anime and clearly draws upon Osamu Tezuka (creator of Astro Boy), reminding me very much so of the modern adaptation of Metropolis which was based on his original story. Like Metropolis, Kaiba calls back to the vintage look of “Astro Boy” and yet is in no way hindered by it as you, or at least I, might expect. I am very much a modern anime viewer and have a preference for distinct character designs that aren’t derivative. So naturally, I was at first turned off by the style because, visually, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. That’s what my first reaction was. Yet somehow, in the back of my mind, I knew this was a good thing. By association of Metropolis, I had a feeling that if they purposely decided to pay homage to this style, I knew that there was going to be a strong sense of self-respect for itself and an immense desire to get it right.

Kaiba is about is about a boy named Kaiba. He wakes up in a strange new world with no memories of who he is, where he came from, or how he got there. His only clue is a pendant carrying a blurry portrait of an unknown girl. Almost immediately upon awakening, he’s attacked and the adventure begins with jump start. There are two types of adventure anime: epic adventures where each episode is a piece of the grand scheme slowly building towards big climaxes. These are series such as Naruto or Bleach who, for the most part, are linear arcs completely focused on single goals. You wouldn’t be able to watch an episode out of context and understand what is going on because they’re only one piece of the puzzle.

Then there are procedural adventures, where each episode is a self-contained short story but have a grand scheme story arc beneath its surface. These are anime such as Wolf’s Rain or Monster, although the format of the show will remind you more of a straight-forward, non-adventure procedural anime like Mushishi or Kino’s Journey. I tend to have a preference for the epic adventure because procedural anime not done properly can sometimes begin to repeat itself or fail at being able to tell a compelling story in only twenty minutes. Procedural anime, adventures or not, live and die by the hit or miss one-shots. It’s with great pleasure that I can tell you that, so far, Kaiba is filled with excellent, top-notch engaging short stories that has greatly exceeded my expectations.

Kaiba’s world is a fairly dark place, making it feel like a cyberpunk setting because of its gritty realism infused into the stories. I’m hesitant using the word realism because the world is incredibly imaginative and really stretches the boundaries of sci-fi into fantasy. That’s where Kaiba’s classic style comes into play. The exaggerated, cartoony character designs fits so perfectly with this unbelievable universe, I simply can’t imagine Kaiba using any other style. At the same time, they don’t let these designs bog down the type of stories they can tell at all. I suppose that’s what I was, at first, anxious about. From my western view, if a series had chosen this style they would of been pigeon-holed into doing something childish. But no, far from it. The creators of Kaiba accept it, embrace it, and breath it.

Four episodes in, I have no hesitation in saying that this is one of the best series to air in 2008– no, in recent memory. I can’t wait for more.

Impressions: Baccano! 14-15

Posted in anime, impressions with tags , , on May 20, 2008 by daeyeth

“Baccano!” episodes 14 & 15 are bonus episodes that I recently got my hands which come from the DVDs.

Episode 14 starts out exactly as I’d expect from a bonus material episode: complete filler crap. You might have noticed that I predisposition against fillers. Well, yeah, who doesn’t? They’re called “fillers” for a reason. Their only purpose is to fill time in between the real story and they offer absolutely nothing of substance other than “shenanigans and hijinks from all your favorite characters” that any fan could of thought. In other words, it’s animated fanfiction.

A random assortment of the characters are playing dominoes, the kid’s way, and overall taking it easy shortly after the train escapades in the last episode. It’s a good thing Isaac and Miria are there, they put some energy into an otherwise boring scene. Fortunately, this scene doesn’t last long. Unfortunately, in the next segment we meet our “filler villain” for this mini-arc, Graham Spector. I hate Graham Spector immediately. He is the embodiment of exactly type of bad guy I can’t stand: a psychotic killer who’s only purpose is to drive plot points and to fill time by blabbering on about ridiculous philosophies for 10+ minute. Unlike the likeable crazies Ladd or Vino, Graham has none of their earnest vibrance. Everything he does and says feels fake, as if he’s badly reciting a one-man play for the audience. The guy does not shut up.

Graham’s irritating psychobabble blankets the whole episode, with small bits real story content cut in between. Ladd shows up in a flashback and, because he’s a proper lunatic done right, makes Graham’s presence even more grating and stand out as the terribly flat character he is. So it was with great pleasure that I watched Ladd beat Graham’s sorry ass in another nicely animated battle, albeit short one as most of Baccano’s fights are.

The rest of the real content is comprised of brief bits showing the original immortals and what they’re currently up to. In Huey’s scene, his relationship with Chane and her backstory is unveiled completely, providing a nice follow up in episode 15.

Unlike the last episode, episode 15 is basically a real one packed with great character developments and backstory. There is a lot of great stuff such as seeing characters who have never really met before and seeing them interact. For instance, Jacuzzi and his gang make an unlikely acquaintance, Chane, the mute. Chane is a really fantastic, unique character, it’s good see most of the episode centered around her. It’s funny though, I couldn’t help but feel a sort of unintended audience tension as she interacted with Jacuzzi. You see, Jacuzzi’s archetype is something of an anime pimp; the natural kindness these characters emote quite often evolves into romance when they’re alone in a room with a female. Jacuzzi and Chane are already nicely paired off, I didn’t want to see any conflict start up between their mates. It turned out I was just being paranoid, phew. Vino would of tore Jacuzzi up.

Jacuzzi has kind of grown on me. Because his archetype is so common, I’ve gotten incredibly tired of spineless characters who only show some balls every now and then. However, Jacuzzi is a superbly exaggerated variation of the archetype, I’ve come to accept him. His flashback with Nice in this episode was so adorable, in my opinion, it’s one of his best moments. Jacuzzi and Chane are only the tip of the iceberg of this episode as there are lot of other great moments. Seeing Vino outside the train element was a pleasure. Never thought how being covered in blood acts as a disguise, will note that for later. Vino’s combination of nonchalant manner and blunt intelligence is refreshing to see in an anime. His wit is so lightning quick that other characters are often flabbergasted as to what to say or do. He’s also the perfect match for Chane because he’s smart enough to understand her without her ever saying a word (there’s a pun in there somewhere).

Graham’s also around but he’s completely overshadowed by the original Baccano characters. Quite literally at one moment. I won’t spoil it, but man, Vino, you are the man. There is one more final episode that I have yet to see which should wrap things up nicely. I can’t wait.

Impressions: Kurenai – 07

Posted in anime, impressions with tags , , , on May 20, 2008 by daeyeth

As Kurenai continues to develop, I’m discovering that this series is as much about Shinkurou as it is about Murasaki and her interactions in the “outside world”. And this is turning out to be a good thing. The episode, aptly entitled “Women”, starts off with Murasaki watching TV with Yuno and Tamaki. I was pleased to see that Murasaki was out of that hideous drab she’d been wearing for the past couple of episodes and finally had on something sensible….Hopefully I’m not being misunderstood as some lolicon right now, like someone later in the episode. It’s just that Wizard of Oz outfit she’d had on was annoying the crap out of me.

The first half of this episode is mainly about Tamaki. She takes out Murasaki for a trip and explains to her a real world view of women and their relationships with men. Man, Tamaki really doesn’t hold anything back. Her interactions with Murasaki and how she loves to amuse herself by talking to Murasaki as if she’s just “one of the girls” is absolutely hilarious. You learn a great deal about who Tamaki really is, she’s portrayed in a very real light. The sign of a good anime is when the characters become more than just typical, anime archetypes. For instance, they could of stopped at Tamaki’s know-it-all perspective on men and women from a non-personal view. Instead, they go one step further and show her interacting with her boyfriend, displaying a very human side of her.

There’s not much screen time for Shinkurou and what you get is more of the same. I like Shinkurou but I’m thankful that Kurenai isn’t always about him. It creates more depth and rounds out the world. The second half of the episode goes into the backstory of Murasaki & her family and we finally see some dots connecting. They managed to pack in a surprising amount of content in this chapter, especially in comparison to the filler crap we got in number six. We get to see the type of person Renjo really is. I see how they were going easy on the guy previously, trying to emote some sympathy for him, before they finally went out and said it: Renjo will be the douchebag of the story. I mean just look at that snively, dispicable face of his.

How can you not hate a face like that?! But he does give a nice expression after getting verbally owned by Souju, Murasaki’s mom, using his own words against him. I’m sure there’s a douchebag or two above Renjo making him the way he is, but for now he’s a scapegoat for my hate. Like I’ve said before though, every story needs one these guys. They’re the ones that create the conflict, something that looks like is finally going to happen in the next episode. Appears like the real story is going to get rolling real soon.

Baccano! – Review & Analysis

Posted in anime, old school, review with tags , , , on May 20, 2008 by daeyeth

“Baccano!” is a thirteen episode series that finished airing in Japan in November of 2007.

Baccano starts up with an upbeat, jazzy tune and an introduction naming the cast in quick, ten second spots. It’s an enjoyable opening sequence and is symbolic of the colorful (to put it lightly) sorts of characters that fill the world Baccano. I don’t usually enjoy, or even watch, the openings for anime for a couple reasons. 1) Whether I like the opening or not is entirely dependent on the song choice. After all, openings are little more than short music videos. And 2) quite often openings are jam packed with inherent spoilers about the relationships of the characters. You know how annoying it is to figure out who the love interest, best friend, bad guy, and even what the basic premise is a minute and thirty seconds into the very first episode? I don’t want to learn all that from a music video. It’s a good thing that Baccano’s story isn’t so cookie-cutter to be laid out so easily like that as would be typical for a generic anime. No, far from it.

I’d best get this out of the way because the comparisons are unavoidable and if anyone’s ever told you about Baccano, it’s likely this came up. Baccano is not an anime version of Pulp Fiction. In terms of actual story content, Baccano is very different than Pulp Fiction. However, the influences are undeniable and I won’t be able to avoid talking about the similarities between the two. Both are infused with organized crime, though neither use that element to drive plot. Rather, it’s used to flavor the environment/characters and becomes little more than a statement of the natures of people the characters are. In the beginning of Baccano I spent much time trying to memorize the names of each mafia family and their relations to one another only to discover that none of it really mattered in the big picture. The crime syndicates merely act as a vehicle for the characters. This is as opposed to a film like “The Godfather”, the mother of all mafia movies, where the roles are reversed: the characters are a vehicle for the story of the crime syndicates and their relationships with one another.

The narration is told through a series of non-linear, random but interconnected coincidences in the vein of Pulp Fiction. As the plot progresses, it becomes something of a “seperation of six degrees” type of thing. Though the stories of the characters are told separately at first, they’re all connected to one another through something of a “he’s the friend of a friend of a friend”; or rather, in this case, more like “he’s the friend of the guy who was killed by the hitman who works for”….you get the idea. Baccano rarely focuses on a single character for too long, which put me off at first. I had a few concerns with that, the first being that I might not get to know the characters as well as I would like. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. Even though each episode covers a different set of protagonists, all of them are constantly popping in and out of each other’s stories. There’s a steady flow of character development for everyone equally and you’ll continue to learn about them regardless who the focus is of the episode.

For instance, the first set of protagonists we learn about are Isaac and Miria, a quirky comedic duo. While there is no traditional central character for Baccano, I would consider them the heart of the anime. I had immediately grown attached them and feared something would be missing in the next episode as the focus shifted but I was pleasantly surprised to see them make their reappearance as cameos. Now although this shift in focus transitions smoothly and everything starts coming together nicely, as a result of these switches come atmospheric changes that make the mood of Baccano inconsistent and differ greatly from one episode to the next. Some episodes are filled with light-hearted banter while others are very dark and purposefully resemble a horror movie. This could be jarring for some people as it messes with the pacing.

My other worry with these shifts in character focus was that I might not like a protagonist of a particular episode. After all, for many anime only a few characters are given a decent amount of depth that warrant their own episodes and the others are left as typical archetypes. For an anime filled with this many people, I wondered how much depth could they spread around. Apparently plenty. I realize now that those are the anime that are truly good; anime where you not only care about the main characters but everybody around them as well. It also helps that they have great character designs and are pleasing to the eye. The art style is very crisp, clean, and modern, I really enjoyed it. Admittedly, though most of the designs are distinct, you might still have trouble differing each of the characters from one another in the beginning because of the huge cast. Had another, more mundane style been used, this could of easily been more of a problem. In addition, the excellent choice in the Japanese voice actors help in distinguishing all of them. The casting was absolutely spot on in this series and the actors really bring the vibrant individuals to life. The culmination of all these ingredients make the characters one of the best aspects of Baccano and is one of the selling points of this series.

And I’m including Baccano’s psychopathic, bloodthirsty killers in that statement. Who would of thought? Certainly not I because I’m usually find those types of characters irritating, unrelatable, and are usually there simply to be “the bad guy”, the guy you’re supposed to hate. To me, that’s the sign of a failed character, one that comes off as flat and two-dimensional. Their only purpose is to drive plot points and to fill time by blabbering on about ridiculous philosophies for 10+ minutes, as these archetypes often do. This could of been a big issue for me because several of the main characters in Baccano are the types of crazies who love to babble on about life philosophy.

Yet Baccano managed to pull it off, brilliantly so. Never before have I been so thoroughly entertained watching some psycho hop up and down in a pool of blood spouting off nonsensical things. Each of these killer-types have a very real vibrance to them, adding a depth you wouldn’t usually see in such characters. To be fair, none of them are truly in the vein of the aforementioned bad guy archetype, they only appear to be so at first glance. They’re all given sympathetic or admirable traits as you learn more about them. That’s not to say that Baccano is without it’s central “I hate that guy”, and I suppose every story needs one of those.

Overall, Baccano has high production values and the animation is great. Ranging from the way the characters move (you haven’t seen nothing until you’ve seen a grown man happily skip down a hall covered in blood) to the action sequences. Baccano has a lot less action than you might expect, however, the few fights there are come across as superbly choreographed. The battles can be very fantastical with iconic “damn that was cool” kind of moments that you only get from anime. Or the Matrix. Baccano is also surprisingly gory, the type of gore you’d expect from a vampire anime or the sort. Take the level of violence in Pulp Fiction and magnify that by ten for an accurate picture of what you can expect. Granted, the truly gruesome stuff is implied and happens off-screen…for the most part. The world is exaggerated with enough hyperbole that it won’t disturb you on the level one of those old school, Ninja Scroll-type anime might but you will definitely be doing some cringing.

At it’s base, Baccano is a terrific character driven drama with supernatural and mafia elements as a backdrop, although the former becomes more important than the latter and a key part of the motivations for many of the characters. Describing Baccano so clear cut like that, you might think, “Oh okay, I get it”. But it’s no where near as simple as that description with numerous aspects of Baccano being a unique rarity amongst its peers. While the actual story itself isn’t amazing in and of itself, the excellent execution of how it’s told that makes it stand out and is one never before seen in an anime.

Rating: A

Baccano

About Anime Analytical

Posted in site on May 17, 2008 by daeyeth

Heyo, I’m daeyeth. I’m a gamer, anime hobbyist, student illustrator, and I love a good story.

I’ve opened this blog so I can post my musing on anime I am currently watching in public. I always have a thousand and one words in my head after watching an anime, particularly a good one, yet I could never find an appropriate place to express myself. Thus, Anime Analytical was created.

I review, analyze, and critique anime I am currently watching or have watched. Most of the shows I discuss are the latest, most current anime airing in Japan but isn’t limited to only them. I don’t like missing out on a good anime so I’ll often backtrack to shows that have a lot of clamor surrounding them. Even if I’m not really interested in the premise, I’ll force myself to watch it. Thankfully, this compulsion of mine almost always works out in my favor. I find that if an anime is truly good, no matter how out of my element the series is, I just won’t be able to help myself and I’ll end up enjoying it.

A good story transcends.