Archive for anime

Naruto 82 & Bleach 192 Impressions

Posted in anime, impressions with tags , , on November 3, 2008 by daeyeth

Quick warning: spoilers for both Bleach and Naruto. So if you haven’t watched these episodes, don’t read this post.

I’m gonna come right out and say it: episode 82 of Shippuuden was beautiful, both in terms of emotion and quality. Man, this is the reason why it seems I’m so harsh on Naruto. It’s because I know they’re capable of much better, it’s because I’ve already seen the good stuff, that I cringe at their budget saving techniques. But oh well, if that’s what they gotta do to dish out these OAV/movie quality episodes, then fine, so be it, because it’s totally worth it.

It’s ironic that the post-mortem episode of the Hokage’s son was far more powerful than the Hokage’s. Perhaps this just shows how mature the series can become (I won’t say has because Shippuuden’s maturity teeteers back-and-forth, especially during the fillers). The beginning of the episode is powerful with excellent direction. You know instantly that they’re trying and that this episode will be a stand-out. We follow Shikamaru’s turmoil as he tries to come to terms with Asuma’s passing and you really get a sense of this series’ ability to completely flesh out character archetypes, turning them into real people. And not just him, but everyone around him as well. When one of the commoners casually spoke of Asuma, not knowing he was gone, and Shikamaru revealed it to her, that was absolutely brilliant and an excellent moment. Things like that flesh out the world and make it seem real.

I’m very very happy that they’ve decided to focus on Shikamaru for the time being as he’s easily among one of the most interesting characters in Naruto. Also, Kakashi’s revelation at the end was awesome. I was like, “Oh yeah!”

So to go from that OAV quality episode to Bleach was, well…let’s just say I was disappointed. Bleach is still on the level of “shonen”, meaning like action hero approach catering to the 10-13 age group, that the original Naruto was, only more campy. The animation was poor, the fight sequence was horrible, the direction was lacking, and using the same high-pitched voice actor for the adult Nel was jarring. The child Nel was really adorable, but I can’t say I have the same connection to this new Nel. We’ll see how she plays out. I really really hope they step up the animation quality for her fight but I’m not holding my breath. It always sucks to see how much cool potential Bleach has yet fail for me for a majority of the time. Bleach has the potential to be Naruto but it never lives up to the same level of quality.

Disappointing.

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Bleach & Naruto Canon Resume – Hooray!

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

At long last! The dead space is over! Both Naruto and Bleach have finally finished their irritatingly long filler sagas as represented by the new openings. If there’s one thing I’m glad for about fillers and their imported characters is that you never have to see them again once their saga is over…..with the one exception being Bleach and those 3 ridiculous muppet-thing characters. I can’t believe they’re still moping around, what disgusting blemishes they are.

Anyways, Naruto restarted its canon a while earlier and I’m very happy that things are finally getting serious and ramping up. Plus, it’s finally caught up to where I stopped reading the manga, yay. Onto the story, I was surprised and pleased at the twist at the end of team Shikamaru’s fight vs the two Akatsuki. Naturally no spoilers but let me just say that the best emotionally engaging stories are ones where the characters actually experience lasting and permanent repercussions/consequences. Think about the new Indiana Jones movie and how Indy survived a nuke and you’ll get what I’m talking about. On the negative side however, Naruto still has the stupidest flashbacks in existence. Are you seriously gonna show me a flashback from five minutes ago? It’s sad but that seriously isn’t a joke or an exaggeration. I can’t believe such a good anime will pull off something as low as that…

For Bleach, only 15 minutes of the rebooted canon have begun so I don’t much to say on that note. One thing I will say is that, so far, I’ve been fairly disappointed with the released forms of the Espada. Not so much with Grimmjow specifically, just in general. This is more of a personal preferrence, but for me, the further Bleach gets away from sword fights and into monster battles, the less interesting they are. I mean, even with the Shinigamis bankai. Ichigo’s bankai is incredibly badass because all it is is a black katana.

When you get into the more outlandish bankais like Renji’s dragon thing, I don’t find it cool or interesting in the least, like I’m watching someone fight Godzilla…but that’s a bad analogy because Godzilla is pretty damn cool. Okay, it’s like they all just turn into random tentacle monsters, that’s how I see them. Grimmjow’s final form has the most likeable design for me and yet his special moves were pretty lame. That’s the other thing. Even if the design is alright, how cool can a “monster’s” special attack be? I would of rather seen him bust out some more sick katana moves or finger lasers. Finger lasers are always cool. Again, this is just a personal preference, one that I have for all anime. The more outlandish, monster-ish characters or abilities get, the less interesting I find them.

On a final word, I do have another review & analysis in the works. I just finished Code Geass, both seasons, so I’m working on a full writeup now. This one is gonna be rather long so it’s taking me a while. I’m also watching the 2nd season of Gundam 00 so I may write a retrospective on the first season. Quick thoughts on that, Gundam 00 has the best mech-battle chereography I have ever seen…but I really I hate retconning. That is to say, bringing back a dead character through the form of an identical twin brother? That’s disgustingly lazy writing.

Quick-fire thoughts on some old anime

Posted in anime, impressions, old school with tags on September 23, 2008 by daeyeth

Some short, impression-type reviews of old, but relative anime of interest. I tried to put down what most immediately came to mind what I thought of these anime without thinking too much. If you haven’t watched some these, definitely check them out. It’ll be well-worth your time for sure as a couple of these rank among my all-time favorites. If you don’t know a particular anime is about, check out the ANN links below for the summaries.

Monster: A+
Kino’s Journey: B
Berserk: A
Code Geass: B
PlanetES: A
Elfen Lied: B
Black Lagoon: A-

A+

Monster - Rating: A+

I loved Monster, an incredibly unique anime, there’s nothing else like it. The twists are absolutely fantastic, a very intricate, mature story. I watched it to the end of the anime and figured that it didn’t really end there. I guessed right and found the manga’s end. I can see why they ended it there but the manga ending is also very good and neatly wraps up all the lose ends.

A

Berserk - Rating: A

A fan favorite for sure. Berserk’s awesome but MAN is it dark after the anime. It’s really tough for me to read the manga some times because so much messed up stuff happens in there. I swear I was depressed for like the whole day after watching the ending of Berserk in the anime. Talk about a sucker punch.

A

PlanetES - Rating: A

An excellent, excellent anime, really surprised me how good it was. I thought it was going to be mediocre from such a simple, mundane premise but the short stories were very engaging and well-told. Just goes to show you that any anime executed well can make anything look cool (even space garbage men). I loved the ending too.

B-

Kino's Journey - Rating: B-

It’s not badly made or anything, I can see why people like it. But I did not like the pacing or the stark contrast of different overtones in the series. It goes from light and easy-going to dark and gloomy and back far too quickly for me. At times, it drags, though clearly it was intentional most of the time to set the style of the series. Usually the type of slow anime I’m used to are ones with a whole lot of exposition; Kino is just the opposite, with a lackadaisical, taking it easy approach. Sidenote, [*SPOILER*] kind of annoyed me how they pulled the old girl guy switcherwoo, my sad explanations for that in an upcoming post.[/*SPOILER*]

B

Code Geass - Rating: B

A pretty conventional mech soap-opera anime but I really liked it at first because the main character’s an asshole. I always like that. Still, in the second season, the novelty has worn off and I got tired of watching it on a weekly basis. It can get incredibly corny and melodramatic a lot of the time but I’ll stick with it. Melodrama is a part of 90% of anime. It will be better to marathon this type of anime to pull me in better and get rid of my suspension of disbelief.

Black Lagoon - Rating: A-

Excellent anime. One of the very few anime that has an amazingly smart, well-written script. In most anime, the bad guy’s are always talking about how death is life in the most ridiculously roundabout way. Black Lagoon does that too and yet pull it off with superb execution as the characters seem very grounded in reality. I love that. Also, the hyper-Pulp-Fiction-esque world of mercenaries and mafias is pretty damn much all kinds of awesome. Didn’t care for the ending saga in the anime though.

B

Elfen Lied - Rating: B-

Jesus Christ this was gory! Easily one of the most violently graphic modern anime. Old school anime used to achieve this level of violence all the time, taking cues from Fist of the North Star and Ninja Scroll, but these days it’s a very rare sight to see an anime reach that plateau of gruesomeness. It’s ludicrous to realize that the amount of gore in Elfen Lied is actually at the same level of the Berserk manga. And you completely wouldn’t expect it from the conventional, run-of-the-mill character designs. It’s like watching 7-year olds rock out to some death metal. I give them props for being very unique in that respect.

Kurenai Analysis & Review

Posted in anime, review with tags , , , on September 2, 2008 by daeyeth
Always make sure you're adequately fed before a final battle

Always make sure you're adequately fed before a final battle

“Kurenai” is a slice of life series with an action-anime ambition that aired in 2008. It’s about a young high schooler, Kurenai, who is working his first job as a bodyguard protecting a 7-year old, pampered girl. I didn’t have any expectations going into this series so I was pleasantly surprised by the first couple episodes. It had something that very very few anime try for: realistic conversations simulations (mouthful). That is to say, back-and-forths conversations between characters are fast-paced as to give you the illusion that you’re watching a real conversation as opposed to actors acting out a scene (ie. contrast Quentin Tarintino (Pulp Fiction) dialogue with a Michael Bay movie (Transformers)). This makes watching usual odd & awkward anime antics entertaining and engaging. Silly situations are genuinely amusing because of the real reactions and replies of the characters.

This attribute translates nicely into the characters. All of the main characters are considerably fleshed out and three-dimensional, transcending their archetypes and becoming real people. There’s nothing super unique about this anime (something that’s hard to pull off these days, I agree, as it seems everything and anything has been tried in anime) except for its depth and realism. However just that is enough to make a huge impact on Kurenai.

There’s a problem with having realistic characters and conversations however: it makes all the normal anime conventions stick badly out of context. The main character, Kurenai, has this super power. In the average contexts of anime, this super power wouldn’t normally be weird or out of place at all, yet it is. It’s not needed and it seems to have been added simply because they could, because the medium allows… no, expects the main character to have something like that. It adds nothing to the series and is nothing but a flimsy motivational addition to the main character. In a typical anime, this super power would be a focal point of the anime and since it’s not, you have to ask why is it there then? It seems clear to me that they were making a very obvious pull at action anime fans with some of their decisions.

"You know you're crazy right?"

"You know you're crazy right?"

Another out of context, but perfectly normal anime convention are the convictions of the antogonists. To put it plainly, they’re retarded and sick in their motivations. They need help. More on that later. The most irritating type of bad guy is the one who can’t comprehend how much of an asshole they are, the ones who think they’re right no matter what. At the end of Kurenai, the good guys square off against the bad guys in moral debate, which is a terrible decision. Don’t put a spotlight on how retarded these bad guys are, sweep it under the rug and just let the good guys win. The stuff that was coming out of the antogonists mouths left me screaming in frustration how insane these guys were yet they couldn’t see it themselves.

Haliriously, the good guys were thinking the same thing. The strong point of Kurenai comes to save the day, with the realistic protaganists providing logical counter-points to each ridiculous justification. Unfortunately, we get no satisfaction because the bad guys never give up a single point and can be summarized as, “No, you’re wrong and I’m right because this is the Kuhouin way.” Pretty annoying.

The character designs of Kurenai are crisp and modern, complimenting the realism of the series. The easiest way to tell how good the character designs are is by seeing if each character has a unique facial structure. In generic anime facial structures were completely interchangeable. For instance, to make someone look old, they’d simply add a couple lines on the cheeks and under the eyes. In Kurenai, the middle-aged bad guy is masterfully constructed with that beak-like nose and beady eyes. My first impressions of Murasaki, the little girl, were actually, “Eh? That design makes her look pretty old.” But actually it fits perfectly in the context of her character and how she always acts, or tries to, like an adult.

I don’t remember the music at all which shows memorable it was. As for the animation, pretty nice for the most part. Anime with complex character designs sometimes have trouble with animation but not Kurenai. Now, I said earlier how Kurenai has ambitions to be an action-anime and for the most part, the fight scenes are pretty good. They’re nothing special but they’re good enough as a vehicle to display the capabilities of a pretty good animation studio.

The bad thing about this ambition is that they don’t know how to pull it off. There’s no lead up, no anticipation to these battles. One minute they’re driving down the road and the next they’re doing a martial arts showdown (conveniently, no one brings weapons). The brilliance of action-anime is that they advertise their fights like it’s a world championship match, getting you eager and excited. In Kurenai, these fights just happen. It’s like if you saw the top two boxers in the world duke it out on the street, out of no where. You might be like, “Hey, neat”, but it would be missing that spectacle.

I need to bring something up. I wasn’t sure if I was going to have to but now having finished the series, I can see that I do. There are very strong lolita romanticisms in the themes of the story. At first, I thought it was just a cute, little-sister, big-brother kind of thing. I was wrong. I’m going to skip over the bad guy’s part in this who’s telling the 7-year old kid that he’s going to marry her in the future and he’ll be gentle with her (seriously). But he’s a just a sad crazy who was raised to believe that stuff. That part is somewhat easier to take because it’s out in the open. What’s somewhat bothering is the undertones of the main character’s feelings that make you go, “Gettin a little creepy here.” The picture below will explain it for me. Overall though, the lolita thing isn’t a big deal until the end and they don’t actually cross the line (they just think about it).

This is in his dream... is that a wedding dress she's wearing?

His dream... is that a wedding dress she's wearing?

As far as the actual story goes, a bodyguard with a super power protecting a little girl from being the slave child-bride of a psychotic aristocratic family immune to the law, it’s as silly as any other anime so I won’t hold that against it. This goes for pretty much all of my complaints. They’re all standard anime conventions that are constantly seen. It’s only because Kurenai had the potential to rise above those conventions that I’m seemingly panning them. The first half of Kurenai, which was mostly slice of life, funny and awkward moments and conversations, I very very much enjoyed. I wish the whole series was that. A friend mine, when telling me to finish Kurenai, asked me, “Don’t you want to see how the story ends?!” Not really…I really could care less about the evil Kouhins and Kurenai’s quest to find himself after a series of losing battles. That stuff is the everyday bread n’ butter of anime that you can get from anywhere.

What I would rather just see is some more amusing, unique character interactions, excellently paced conversations, and developed, interesting characters, all the strong points of the series. Kurenai is a failure only in the respect that it let itself become like its peers (this says more about them than it does about Kurenai). But I definitely give them points for executing in the unique areas that they did.

Rating: B

Kaiba Full Analysis & Review

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

“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” in terms of character designs but rather than the hi-res, high production, yet stiff and blaringly detailed, 3D environments of Metropolis, Kaiba is a beautifully simple world. The best way I can describe the ascethetics, textures, and physics of the Kaiba universe is a world of water balloons. These floaty, lofty-type environments fit absolutely perfectly with the character designs and is one of the most imaginative universes I have ever seen in an anime.

Kaiba also features gorgeous choices in color palette I must say, filled with snuggly fitting muted overtones that lend to the world’s fairly dark, cyberpunk setting that is infused into the stories. Interestingly, Kaiba can feel oppressive without being overbearing, it can be sad without being depressing. While the characters, mostly poor and living in ghettos, are forced to handle rough, “that’s life” type of situations, they don’t beat you over the head with it or beg for your sympathy. There are many adult themes in Kaiba and they delve into some dark, seedy corners of humanity, but they don’t overwhelm you. Despite everything, the characters are refreshingly optimistic at the end of the day. Kaiba is serious without being melodramatic, dark without being hard to watch, silly without being stupid.

Kaiba’s characters must deal with the cards that life deals them and live through it to the best of their abilities. There’s a gritty realism of Kaiba, a strange thing to say when the feel and look of the world is about as fantastical as you can get. The creators of Kaiba are absolute masters of teetering on edges of fantasy and gritty, making them blend together in seamless motion. I can’t but find it strange that I’m using such analogies considering these types of descriptions would completely off the mark from first impressions of Kaiba visually, but it’s to the series credit. I can’t but find it strange that I’m using all these analogies considering these types of descriptions would completely off the mark from your first impressions of Kaiba visually, but this is to the credit of the series.

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 sometimes have my reservation about procedurals because they can fail at being able to tell a compelling story in only twenty minutes and it’s hard for me to empathize with new characters in the time frame, especially knowing I won’t likely see them in the following episode. Procedural anime 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.

Completing the package is a befitting array of elegant, soft, sexy, relaxing, grandoise, epic, heart-warming, heart-pounding, heart-wrenching music… one of the best anime soundtracks I have ever heard, especially in terms of the musics ability to lend an emotional grab to each scene. Overall, the production values of Kaiba are very high with excellent animation and some truly mind-bending backdrops. Perhaps this is because of the humble art style but they certainly use it to their every advantage.

Considering how high my expectations of Kaiba rose with each episode, I was amazed to find the amount of satisfaction I felt from its climax, ending, and epilogue. Very rarely does that ever happen to me. Without mentioning any spoilers, a part in the climax of Kaiba blew my mind. I won’t say what blew my mind, but when you watch that scene and go “holy shit”, that’s what I was talking about (clue: near the end of episode 11) . In addition, some of the imagery in Kaiba, the final episodes especially, are just jaw-droppingly awesome that make me go, “Damn that is good”. I’m an illustrator, I get off on that kind of stuff.

Kaiba feels like a true successor to Metropolis, pulling off when its predecessor failed to do. To me, Kaiba is a long form version of a Hayao Miyazaki film (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Within). That’s how high in regard I hold this series. I hold no shame is saying this series is now one of my favorite anime of all time.

Rating: A+

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.

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.