Archive for June, 2008

Impressions: Baccano! 16

Posted in anime, impressions with tags , , on June 13, 2008 by daeyeth

The final bonus episode of Baccano. I have to admit, I was disappointed at this last one. Because of how good episode 15 was, my expectations had really been raised. It’s not that this episode was bad, but it wasn’t great either. Where as the last episode felt like a real part of the series, 16 feels like… well, bonus material. Duh, I know.

Episode 16 continues to meander through the lives of the people of Baccano but, for the most part, focuses on the minor characters. My favorite moment in this episode is the appearance of the bit character Kakuzato, who is amusing and funny. Graham’s little mini-arc quickly finishes off with nothing interesting really happening (a mediocre fight) except that Vino and Chane finally get together.

Apparently they couldn’t think of anything for the mafia characters to do so they just had them finish up the dominos scene. It’s a stupid scene that’s ends with all of them resounding “Yahoo!” in English. I cringed as if I had eaten a rotten, sour lemon that someone had just pissed on. I mean, it was so out of character for them. They’re supposed to be professional gangsters man. Sure, they’re laid back but that scene was just a mockery of them.

The rest of the episode is filled with the original immortals but I won’t bother summarizing their stories. You never really got to know the original immortals so I didn’t really care about their stories or their characters. Some of these parts are like they’re pieces of the story that were cut out of the original and I can see why: they just weren’t needed.

Only the end of this episode has a bit of that energy of a real episode with a series of quick cuts aided by the opening theme. And that’s it, so ends Baccano. No, it ended at episode 13 and I realize these are just extra fanfare. For what they’re worth, I guess I can say I’m satisfied with this bonus material. I can’t complain too much about getting more Baccano after all.

Of Fillers and Concerning Bleach/Naruto

Posted in anime, opinion with tags , , , on June 13, 2008 by daeyeth

I haven’t posted about these two yet and considering they’re currently among the most popular, well-known anime currently airing I thought I should address that. I’m a pretty uppity, high brow anime hobbyist. Quite simply, I don’t watch trash and won’t put up with average. That usually includes 90% of dubs, every run-of-the-mill procedural anime based on some ero-game, a lot of romantic-comedies, low-brow humor, and low-budget animation. I’ve seen enough anime by this time to discern what I like and dislike and know that I can pick and choose what I want to watch. There was a time when anime was so sparse that I could literally watch any anime and like it. Seriously, it didn’t matter what it was as long as it was anime. Ah, those were the days…but that’s a post for another time.

Where am I going with this? Do I hate the ever-so-popular Naruto and Bleach? No. I mean, I’ll be perfectly honest with you, Bleach and Naruto are among my favorites of anime. However, being the 100+ episode adventures they are, they have this disgusting, yet unavoidable habit of constantly using what’s known as “filler”. Fillers are one of the main problems with anime that use these epic adventure formats. Every format has its flaws. In an earlier post, I gave a little jab at procedural anime even while my examples were top-notch, first class of their kind. To be clear, I adored Mushishi, Monster was absolutely brilliant, and Wolf’s Rain was awesome. My jab wasn’t at them but rather at their nameless, forgettable siblings that always seem take place at a high school and center around average, everyday, “you’d-be-completely-uninteresting-if-it-wasn’t-for-the-heart-of-gold-and- ability-overcome-any-obstacle” joe.

I said that procedural anime live-or-die by their ability to tell compelling, self-contained short stories in the span of a single episode. Conversely, epic adventures need to deliver on their climaxes and be able to keep the interest of the viewers over the 30+ episodes it takes to get to those plot pinnacles. Fillers have the complete opposite effect of that. They disturb the momentum and dilute the quality of the series because they’re not even canon storylines (meaning they’re not true to the source material or have any effect on the main story). I’ve said this before, but fillers are animated fanfiction. Imagine if, in the middle of one of the Matrix movies, Neo went back into the Matrix and had an adventure that was completely unrelated to the main plot. You’d be like, “Wtf is this? He was just about to save Zion!”

It’s a sad truth for the great series they are but Naruto and Bleach are the worst offenders of this filler trash. Unfortunately, because of how the japanese animation industry is structured, they simply can’t avoid using fillers. I’ve come to terms with that and have found my own way to deal with it: I just don’t watch them. That’s right, I completely skip entire episodes, mini-arcs, and even saga-stretching fillers. And I can do this because none of the material is canon so there will be no penalty to me for not having watched the episode. That shows just how useless fillers are. Can you imagine skipping 3-4 episodes of Lost and then jumping back in at the most current episode? You’d have no idea what was going on.

You might be thinking I’m being too harsh on fillers. To be clear, there’s a time and a place for fillers. For instance, procedural anime are perfectly tailored for filler. Filler done right won’t even be noticeable to someone who hasn’t read the manga and I’m fine with that. But epic adventure anime like Bleach and Naruto are the worst type of anime for filler because they stick out like sore, bloody, infected thumbs.

So that’s my reason for not posting about Naruto and Bleach. It’s not that I don’t watch them or not care about them. It’s just that I’m not watching them or don’t care about them at the moment. That’s a trend that looks like is going to be continuing for a while since both Bleach and Naruto have committed to doing entire saga-spanning fillers because they’ve made brand new openings just for these non-canon characters.

Sigh, damn shame…. damn shame it is. Such a love/disgust relationship I have with these series. Oh well.

/rant

Sword of the Stranger – Review

Posted in anime, review with tags , , , on June 11, 2008 by daeyeth

“Sword of the Stranger”, I find, is the perfect anime equivalent of what you would call a typical “blockbuster” action movie in Hollywood: not much substance, nothing particularly unique or creative, but can be fun to watch and has high production values. “Stranger” is a movie about your random vagabond ronin who gets caught up in a devious plot of an emperor to attain the Elixir of Life, which is apparently doable by sacrificing some kid with pure blood or something. Fact of the matter is, the plot doesn’t matter in the slightest and is just an excuse for some good old fashioned, samurai sword slashin’ action. As it should, or rather ends up, to be in every decent blockbuster flick. You don’t watch Michael Bay (Transformers, Bad Boys) movies for their stories, you watch them for their over-the-top, insane action sequences. The problem is, while what action there is in “Stranger” is high quality and well-done, it winds up to be a meager portion of the film.

A majority of “Stranger” is comprised of the ronin’s interaction with the bratty, but likeable child. They have a good amount of on-screen chemistry, but it’s nothing special, nothing that will really captivate your heart as they seem to be desperately trying for. The characters’ themselves are decent, albeit standard anime arch-types. The hero has an interesting, cliche mysterious background and it’s unfortunate that they couldn’t just focus on that instead of using it as an additional spice so to speak.

The main issue with the film lies in the fact that nothing really happens during the entire 90-minute span of the story besides that. Aside from the catalyst to begin the story and the climax to end it, everything else in-between is blatantly filler. And while most blockbusters use that exact formula, a good one will make the filler seem of some consequence, importance, or interest. What this movie was missing was the “rollercoaster ride” that all blockbusters have; it was missing that momentum of action sequences, which there was a surprising lack of. I wanted to see a movie full of high quality, sword-swinging battles, but was given tiny teasers of quality fights that never panned out and left me wanting more. Instead, the movie chose to take it’s sweet time following the mundane antics of brat and ronin and the typical “here’s what the bad guy is doing” sequences cut in between. As usual, you never really care about any of the bad guys (which comprise of 90% of the cast) aside from maybe one of them. They’re just there to fill the world and drive plot points.

I suppose I’m a little more miffed than need be because of how much potential this movie had. The opening action sequence drew me in immediately and excited me. However, in the end, it betrayed me because it set a tone and energy for the film that just wasn’t true. It was pretending to be a big adventure with a grand storyline but the meat of the film was simply everyday, relaxing meandering between a child and a hardened soldier. Actually, I would of liked the film better if it had just been that instead of being this wish-washy direction that covets it. The ending climax plays out as you’d expect but by that time I was already like, “Oh, finally…” I will say that I was satisfied with their choice in epilogue. If you read between the lines, there are two different endings that are apparent and they let you choose which one you think will happen.

The bits and pieces of goodness that they tease you with are enough to make “Sword of the Stranger” a decent, blockbuster anime movie; the action can be entertainingly awesome but there’s just not enough of it, and while the interactions between the main protagonists can be amusing and sweet at times, they slow down film. So other than that, there’s not much else to look at.

Rating: C+