2008 Fall Update

Posted in anime, site with tags on September 1, 2008 by daeyeth

Sorry I been away for a while but I’m back after another marathon, finishing up two series that I’ve been really meaning to get around to (Kaiba and Kurenai). Will post my reviews soon.

Yeah, this is how I usually am. I don’t like to do the weekly thing. I’m impatient and I don’t feel it’s the best way to grasp anime. I prefer to wait until a series finishes then to marathon the whole thing and devour it in one delicious chunk. I tried to do recurring impressions but, meh, it’s tiring to tear down an anime episode by episode. So I probably won’t be doing those much, but I am committed to giving full analysises, reviews, and interim updates on where an anime is at the moment.

For instance, Naruto is finally back on canon! Yay! No more fillers! For now anyways lol. So Shippuden is almost at the point where I stopped reading the manga. It’s ironic, I don’t like reading shonen manga when there’s an anime adaptation. Because they’re action oriented, I would much rather watch cool battles animated with music and cool effects. My opinion hasn’t changed, I’m regretting spoiling what’s going to be an awesome fight in the near future. But I just couldn’t help it! That 80 episode barrage of fillers in the original Naruto was just too much to bear…. Damn you fillers, damn you! (Disclaimer: please refer to “Of Fillers and Concerning Naruto/Bleach”)

I can start watching Naruto again, which is good. Bleach is still on fillers, which is bad. Finishing Kaiba and Kurenai has reinvigorated my anime appetite however, so I’ll be on the look out for new anime. Code Gaess R2 is finishing up soon, I can probably try to get into Macross Frontier (original impressions turned me off), and I should probably do a retro review of Gundam 00 since a new season is probably coming some time. Btw, where the hell is the second season of Haruhi?! You know, I keep asking around on the internets and everybody always says “Oh yeah, it’s been confirmed, it’s coming”. I asked 2007. I’m dieing here.

That’s it for now.

Advertisements

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+

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.