Posted on 27 July 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews, Genius Party


Call me crazy, but Baby Blue has been the best of the short movies from Genius Party for me so far, but then again, with such a stellar storyteller behind the direction (Shinichiro Watanabe, who directed Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop; the guy really should release another series), this was to be expected. Watanabe also directed Detective Story and Kid’s Story in the Animatrix, so he knows what it takes to make a good short story, which he shows in these fifteen minutes.

Baby Blue is very much away from all of his other works, and it’s basically like Doorbell a tale about high-schoolers. This one went right where Doorbell failed, though, by providing adequate background for the two central characters, and at the same time there’s this continuous down-to-earth atmosphere. All movies of Genius Party have a message, and the message of this one works out really well when it gets revealed.

The characters really shine, despite the very quiet mood, backed up by some lovely guitar-solos. There is a small hint of romance, I guess, but it smartly stays away from being a Makoto Shinkai rip-off/wannabe with its daring storytelling, but the thing that really shines in this series is its characters.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on 26 July 2008 with categories: Telepathy Shoujo Ran



Short Synopsis: The current arc: a “supposedly” haunted hot spring resort.
Highlights: Look and watch Midori make an idiot out of herself.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8/10
Telepathy Shoujo Ran is obviously not perfect with its lack of subtlety and mysteries that sometimes are a bit far-fetched, and indeed my biggest fear is for this series to turn into the next Allison to Lillia, with the series going south as the inspiration of the creators runs out. For now, I’ll remain positive, though, because yet again this episode was really enjoyable. It shined through the banter between the different characters, and for now I’ll call this among the best of the middle-school detectives-genre.

I’m still not sure why the chief of the resort suddenly knew about Ran, but the rest of the mystery was pretty well done. The creators first pretend that this is some sort of Scooby Doo-esque mystery series, where the ghost appearances were caused by a human (where mostly Midori broke down the ghosts actions so that human actions would easily explain them), only put down a bunch of actual ghosts in front of the characters. I suppose it makes sense: since the powers of Ran are so omnipotent, why wouldn’t she be able to see ghosts?

I must say that I’m liking Midori more and more with every episode. She’s the smartest character of the cast, she’s sarcastic and likes to make sarcastic jokes and yet she continues to make an idiot out of herself whenever she’s in front of Ran’s brother. She’s really enjoyable to watch, no matter how questionable the mystery may end up to be.

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews


Hiroshi Watanabe intrigues me. No matter what kind of utter crap he produces, he intrigues me like no other. The guy is a brilliant writer, he has a bizarre sense of humour, and at the same time he can come up with the most terrible and cheesy storylines ever. The guy has also been around for a decade now, and made a wide variety of series, so there has to be someone who sees something in the guy. Call it a guilty pleasure, but there has to be something wrong when I have no problems remembering his name, and yet I can’t recall the name of the director of Noein and Escaflowne at all. As much as I hate to admit it, the big “twists” in Suteki Tantei Labyrinth and Shining Tears x Wind have made a lasting impression on me.

In any case, King of Bandits Jing is typical Hiroshi Watanabe: incredibly cheesy and incredibly creative. You can see it as a canvas for creative ideas, in the sense of “I have an idea and I don’t care how stupid it sounds”. Seriously, you’ll have trouble to find a series with more creativity and originality than this one. Swords that turn out to be keys? Musical train tracks? Grapes of time? Delicious! On top of that, this series can also boast one of the best character-designers out there: Mariko Oka, who also did the character-designs on Jigoku Shoujo and Ghost Hound. The result is a bunch of absolutely beautiful female character-designs.

But yeah, Hiroshi Watanabe’s series have always been a very strange combination of awesomeness and utter crap, and King of Bandits Jing is no exception. The amount of Deus ex Machina that bombard the screen is only surpassed by the second half of Star Ocean Ex (which, you guessed it, was also directed by Hiroshi Watanabe). The series is incredibly formulaic: King of Bandits Jing and his partner Kir (a horny crow) enter a city in order to steal something, meet a cute girl whose name is a reference to heavy liquor, Gir flirts with her, and at the end of the story Jing has saved the day and defeated the villain in the form of an ugly man. In the final arc, Jing and Kir still enter a city in order to steal something, meet a cute girl whose name is a reference to liquor, flirt with her and end up saving the day by defeating the villain in the form of an ugly man (okay, one of these villains is an ugly woman, but she doesn’t count as she looks way too much like a man!!). Gir gets one episode of development, but this development is never used, and Jing never develops at all. No background whatsoever!

The different stories have a huge difference in overall quality. Some are utter crap, others are average, others are entertaining and one or two episodes are utterly amazing. The one thing I love about Hiroshi Watanabe’s works is that you’ll never know when he shows his best side, and King of Bandits Jing is no different. I want to give especially credit to the artist-episode. It stands miles above the other shorts in terms of storytelling, and it was without a doubt the highlight of this series. The ending of the series shows why Hiroshi Watanabe is the absolute king of cheesy plot-twists, but I don’t care, I love this guy’s works, despite the very obvious flaws.

Storytelling: 7/10
Characters: 6/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 9/10
Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews


Next up in the category of “very obscure OVAs from the 80s and 90s” is Karura Mau (or as its full title reads: “Hengeitaimayakou Karuramau! Sendaikokeshienka”, which I’d rather keep abbreviated for rather obvious reasons). It aired back in 1990 as a six-part OVA (there was a movie too, I believe), but my guess is that it never really caught on. Which is a shame, because it’s really good. If you’re looking for horror and know a bit of Japanese (yes, I watched this in raw, so don’t bother asking me where to find subs) then you should check this out.

Before I start this review, I’d like to note one thing about the OVA’s rather questionable promo-art that you can find on sites as AniDB and MyAnimelist, because for the love of god… it’s got absolutely nothing to do with what actually happens here. Where the heck did that overly BL-picture come from anyway, because this is a story about two sisters who work for a shrine. These two guys who appear in the promo-art never appear in this story at all.

Anyway, Karura Mau is a pure, unadulterated horror thriller. At first sight, it may seem that it’ll be a collection of 6 random horror stories, in which our lovely leads exorcise one ghost every episode, but instead this turns out to be a continuous storyline. It’s easy to just stab someone in the hand, or draw some random corpse or goon, but horror really tries to make these scenes have impact, and Karura Mau succeeds really well in this department. It knows exactly that good horrors comes with good characters, and so it makes sure that throughout only 6 episodes, the antagonists are fleshed out and developed really well into sympathetic characters. The result is that this anime gets better and better with every single episode.

Another major plus for Karura Mau is its terrific soundtrack, full of influences from the eighties that manages to create a perfect scary mood. The graphics also look really good for something that’s nearly twenty years old, but I want to give especially credit to the gory scenes and blood. Because this OVA comes from the time of hand-painted cells, the bloody limbs and corpses are drawn in such a way that can’t possibly be mimicked by today’s computerized animation techniques. The budget for this series isn’t stellar, but nevertheless it shows the beauty of hand-painted cells.

Unfortunately, this is yet another one of these anime with the “the manga is so much larger”-syndrome. In Karura Mau, this doesn’t show through the story (it’s pretty standalone and wraps itself up nicely), but through the main characters. It’s obvious that they were developed in another arc than the one of the OVA, and so they pale in comparison to the well-fleshed out antagonists. Especially the two main characters are guilty of this, and the OVA partly assumes the viewer to be familiar with the manga (which, considering the popularity of this OVA, must be even more obscure)

It’s really a pure coincidence that I managed to discover Karura Mau, but as a fan of horror, I’m really glad that I did. It’s another one of those ancient gems that nobody knows about, and it deserves to be subbed or licensed. Its protagonists may feel a bit weird at times, but the antagonists really make up for it.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on with categories: Genius Party


Since the third episode of Genius Party isn’t out yet, I went on to number four: Doorbell. This one may seem like the odd one amongst the different movies, as it’s been directed by a manga-artist: Yoji Fukuyama. The only thing the guy is famous for is for doing the art of a part of the very first “nouvelle manga“. This guy could be the total opposite of Shoji Kawamori, in a way.

In any case, Doorbell is a very quiet movie, combining slice of life with a “what’s going on”-mystery type of story. There’s not a lot that happens, and the fifteen minutes in this movie will be over before you know it, but its message is an interesting one when it gets revealed in the end. The art style is very plain, which fits the movie perfectly.

The problem with this movie is that the Yoji Fukuyama tried a bit too much to make this guy look like your average Joe. Through the movie, I found no reason to care about the guy: we hardly lear anything about him or his life. Heck, it takes ages before we even get to hear his name. It’s rather hard to identify with someone like that.

There’s also a strange minute wasted on a random old lady who doesn’t add anything to the storyline. I guess that if this short would have had just a couple of more minutes to establish its characters properly, it would have been much better. There’s a huge contrast between Doorbell and the first two shots of Genius Party that I’ve seen so far, which is always a good thing. The quality has been surprisingly consistent so far: the three shorts I’ve seen so far have all been nothing special, with a few things missing here and there, but interesting in their own way. I’m interested to see how the rest of the shorts will turn out, because there still are lots of talented directors left.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 7/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 7/10
Posted on with categories: Birdy the Mighty Decode



Short Synopsis: More characters than ever get introduced as Birdy goes back to her home-planet.
Highlights: Completely different from the first three episodes, in a good way, though Senkawa is getting a bit annoying.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 7/10
Okay, I’m not sure what happened here… This episode introduced the real meat of this series, but it’s not something to expect, with the stellar staff behind this series. I liked all the different characters that got introduced, but there were parts in this episode that made me question whether the creators really knew what they were doing…

The biggest culprit obviously being Senkawa’s overly moralistic speech towards that judge. I can understand his whimsical banter with Birdy (which was actually quite fun to watch), and his surprise at all the new things that he’s saw in this episode, but that tribunal-scene made no sense whatsoever. I liked how it gave Birdy a bit of background, but that’s about the only thing that was good about that scene.

Then there’s also that random bombing at the end of the episode that Birdy just “happened to be at”. It’s not the most solid plot-twist, and I’m not sure what its purpose really is going to be. I think that this series needs to be a bit more focus, and I hope that the next episode can establish a clear goal for this series to work to. At the same time, I also hope that the creators will remember to flesh out all of the different important characters that were left on earth.

In a way, this episode was necessary to give Birdy her background and wrap up the Giga-arc, but it could have been done a bit better. One real disappointment about this episode was the huge downgrade in the animation. It’s nowhere near the huge quality of the first episode. To be honest, I’m disappointed with this series so far, but I’m partly to blame myself for getting my expectations up too high. I’m not going to expect anything grand from this series anymore, then perhaps it’ll surprise me in the next few episodes.

Posted on 25 July 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews


I’ve got to stop dropping these boring-looking series without giving them a chance… looking back at what I wrote on my first impression on this series, I realize what an idiot I’ve been, dropping this series in favour of… Binbou Shimai Monogatari. In any case, if you’re looking for good romance, then look no further, because Bokura ga Ita has lots of it, and then some more.

And what romance it is. The beauty of this series is that it just feels like it’s about a real couple, and throughout the series, they explore all of the common aspects of being a couple: rivalry, understanding and compromising for each other, truthfulness, breaking up and saying goodbye, but the common theme for this series is the fact that love can turn sane people into a bunch of inconsistent idiots; the contrast between common sense and your own feelings, and the 24 episodes do an excellent job of exploring said themes in-depth.

Obviously, the characters in this series are deep. About 50% of this series’ dialogue happens inside the characters’ heads, so at the end of the series, you’ll know exactly what went on in those multi-layered minds of them. They way they evolve throughout the series is also pretty amazing, and you can see the subtle changes that occur in just about everything in this series. The pacing is slow, but every single episode hardly ever loses focus on what’s really important in this series.

Let me place a warning, though, and a very important one. The pacing is incredibly slow, so you obviously don’t want to watch it if you generally like fast-paced series, but there’s one more thing to be aware of: the female lead Nanami Takahashi. She’s by no means a bad character, but the creators made no attempts to make her into something like “the perfect girlfriend”, or something similar. She’s weak, incredibly wishy-washy and hardly ever gets to the point she wants to make. I realize that this is exactly the creators’ intentions, but you do NOT want to watch this series when you’re frustrated, because she’ll just make these frustrations worse.

In terms of the production-values, this is a typical Artland series. The character-designs are very stylish, and the animation is consistent, yet you’ll hardly ever notice it. There are so many EDs that they make any Shaft-productions pale in comparison. I now also understand why Gunslinger Girl – Il Teatrino’s action-sequences felt so low-budget, because it’s just not something they’re good at, and instead they excel in style and subtlety (something that was plenty available in Il Teatrino as well).

This pretty much is exactly what a pure shoujo romance should be. My only real complaint is the ending, as it’s a bit too open-ended for such a series, but mostly because the manga at that point featured a very interesting plot-twist that was omitted in the anime, and which would have had so much potential if the creators included it in a second season somehow. But then again, then it would look a bit too much like a Makoto Shinkai rip-off, and this way Bokura ga Ita really has its own identity as a series.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Genius Party



Ah, of course. Robot Carnival had Robots, the Animatrix had the Matrix and Genius Party has imagination. Every short movie is about imagination in one way or the other. Shanghai Dragon is the work of Shoji Kawamori, the guy behind Macross, who is currently directing Macross Frontier. There are indeed plenty of grand mecha-battles in this one, but I don’t think that you can predict what this one will be about, just by looking at Kawamori’s other series.

First of all, Shanghai Dragon is about a pair of Chinese kids (who also speak Chinese), but it’s also a satire, parodying the trope of the useless kid who suddenly finds the ultimate weapon. It’s just this time, the ultimate weapon is more ultimate than ever, and the kid also couldn’t be more useless. And yet, these have been some fun 20 minutes of airtime, mostly thanks to an adorable cast of characters, which manages to be dynamic, despite the short length of only 20 minutes.

It’s strange, though: the space-soldiers in this short speak Japanese, while the kids are Chinese, and they seem to have no problem understanding each other. The biggest flaw of this short, however, is the rather intrusive CG that sometimes doesn’t flow well with the other animation at all. Shoji Kawamori obviously couldn’t get the same budget for this episode as for an average Macross Frontier episode, and this shows. And it’s a shame, because the other graphics look pretty interesting.

Overall, Shanghai Dragon nothing special, but without a doubt a fun way to spend 20 minutes. Like Genius Party (the first short of Genius Party), it’s also full of symbolism. It may not be the most subtle storyline, but it’s both a parody and homage to an overused cliché in anime. It may start out like a joke in the beginning, but it ends strangely heart-warming.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Kara no Kyoukai


The third movie of The Garden of Sinners takes place between the first and the second. It continues the tradition of the second movie by shedding light on the unanswered questions that the first movie left behind, as it shows another stage in Shiki and Mikiya’s life. The story is about yet another string of mysterious gruesome murders, but despite this, it was the best movie of Kara no Kyoukai yet in my opinion.

The antagonist for this movie is the biggest reason for this. This movie really looks into the question: “what could someone drive to commit these gruesome murders?” And it comes up with a fascinating character study with a bit of supernatural elements here and there. Shiki and Mikiya also benefit from the second movie, which fleshed out their characters a bit, so they too make this a highly enjoyable movie.

There are a couple of bugs in the storyline, though. I’m not sure whether it was a good idea to have the major antagonist turn out to be a friend of Mikiya, of all people. It makes no sense, could have easily be omitted without affecting the rest of the movie and the movie can’t seem to decide what kind of relationship the two exactly have. It feels like some sort of cheap plot-device, especially for such a short 50-minute movie. The ending is also a bit of a downer-ending, with its Deus ex Machina-ish plot twist.

The plot feels a bit weird, but nevertheless the characters keep improving with every movie. It’ll be interesting to see this trend continue for the rest of the seven movies of the Garden of Sinners. Remaining Sense of Pain isn’t the most visually stunning instalment of Kara no Kyoukai, and the mystery isn’t as impressive as in chapter 1, but it makes up for this with great and solid characters.

Storytelling: 7/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on with categories: Bonen no Xamdou



Short Synopsis: Akiyuki tries to make sense of his new body as the assault causes many casualties.
Highlights: Shows all the basics of good storytelling.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8/10
I can imagine that if there ever was something like a “Basic Guide-Book to Telling A Good Story”, it would use Bonen no Xamdou as a major source of inspiration, or in any case the first two episodes. Everything so far has been done exactly by the books, and although this makes these two episodes predictable, it also makes them very solid. The setting for Bonen no Xamdou is huge, and so far we’ve seen the characters introduced and properly defined (and some of them already have evolved a bit), all the major parties have had their introductions, and yet the pacing has been frantic in order to keep the viewer interested.

I also really like the use of budget in this series. Bonen no Xamdou has a huge budget, but interestingly this isn’t used to create stunning backgrounds, like Porfy no Nagai Tabi or Macross Frontier, and instead it makes sure for a lot of detailed motions on the foreground. Very nice to see that for a change, especially in a series that’s as busy as this one.

And with this episode, I know for sure: it’s a pet peeves of the director to pay homage to some of the classics of anime. We saw this first in Eureka7, where Eureka’s three children were based off of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, and here you can spot it too: Nakiami’s outfit is very obviously inspired by the costumes in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke. On an interesting side-note: the children seem to return for Bonen no Xamdou as well, though this time there’re just two of them. Let’s see how these brats ended up on such an international war-ship.

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  • Bam
    (Wednesday, Sep 17. 2014 04:50 AM)
    @Emma: I mean don’t get me wrong, he’s a decent writer, just that he has overplayed his conversational style of plot narrative. I’m sure he can do much more if he challenges himself beyond his comfort zone. I also find it incredibly comic when people call the Monogatari series “very deep”.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Sep 17. 2014 04:41 AM)
    I just shudder at the thought of isshin writing a oshi film. Every word you said there, I couldn’t have put it better myself.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, Sep 17. 2014 04:22 AM)
    @Emma: Oshi is a giant whose shoulders most animators are not worthy of standing on (although they do). I’m just a fan of art conveying messages through symbolism, cinematography and style instead of idiots reciting the entirety of every the nuance through dialogue.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Sep 17. 2014 03:39 AM)
    Isshin I ask only this of you…GET-MAHOU-SHOJO-RITSUKA animated.
    That is all.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Sep 17. 2014 03:35 AM)
    @Bam: ….The suggestion of that is heresy.
    Also glad to meet another Mamoru oshi fan that also liked angels egg.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, Sep 17. 2014 03:23 AM)
    I’m just hoping that Nisio Isin would be ending soon altogether. Katanagatari and the beginnings of Monigatari and Kizu were enjoyable, but this mother fucker is just soooooooooooo verbose. If he made Angel Egg it would be the guy and the girl talking nonstop from start to finish, untill the movie just … sorta ends.
  • Raggers
    (Wednesday, Sep 17. 2014 03:17 AM)
    http://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-news/2014/09/16/video-nisioisin-concludes-monogatari-and-launches-new-series
    -Monogatari supposedly ending. I’m sceptical as to how long they’ll leave this cash cow, but I hope it’s long enough for us to finally get Kizumonogatari.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, Sep 17. 2014 03:08 AM)
    *they’re
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, Sep 17. 2014 03:06 AM)
    Ahhh I’ll just wait till it gets animated. Given the immense success of the show I’m pretty sure that they’ll never gonna stop, and from what I’ve gathered the rendition is very close to the manga.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Sep 17. 2014 02:58 AM)
    I will have to get onto reading part four of jojo soon.

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