Posted on 26 July 2010 with categories: Anime Reviews

DT Eightron is one of those “screw the budget, we’re here to tell a story”-anime. And really: why not? The plot of this one is excellent, so who cares about the unimpressive graphics?

Personally I loved how the plot of this series unfolded from a seemingly average post-apocalyptic dystopia into a story about survival. What sets this show apart is the huge amount of neat ideas that the creators put into this, all dedicated to flesh out the setting that the series takes place in. It really gets quite deep as the series goes on. It may just be that I’m a fan of science fiction and all (hey, I never claimed that this blog unbiased), but after watching the entire series, I really have to say that the back-story it created is impressive, well thought out and very imaginative.

This show also rocks in the way that it subverts or averts common-used character tropes and cliches here. The lead character actually isn’t in control of the titular “mecha”. Instead, one of his friends is. The lead character is a bit of a bland kid, but for once this makes full sense in the story, and the creators actually make optimal use of this in the story. They never force him to be some sort of stereotypical hero here (those roles are cleverly used for the characters with the most combat experience), and instead its his development that makes him into a worthy lead character. You’ll get what I mean when you watch the series, but I don’t want to spoil too much about it. Just do note that in order to tell its story, it does introduce a few minor plot-holes here and there. The most glaring being the origin of the titular mecha, Eightron, which unfortunately is just never explained.

Watching this series really got me thinking about how perhaps I’ve been a bit too focused on animation budgets for the past months. It’s series like this that show that even though the animation is unimpressive (really, there are too many distorted faces and still frames here), you can still kick ass with your story. While it’s true that a big budget would have made this series even more enjoyable to watch, it’s not something that should be held against it when the plot has so many interesting ideas, and it has been this good at developing its story and setting. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the series that partly inspired Ergo Proxy.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Slow, but atmospheric. Not realistic or believable, but excellent at developing its story and mystery.
Characters: 8/10 – Likable in the way that they play with quite a few tropes and cliches.
Production-Values: 7/10 – Yeah, don’t expect eye candy here. Good soundtrack, though.
Setting: 10/10 – Ah, why not? Great ideas, great development. It’s multi-layered, thought provoking. It’s really the kind of setting that I personally love.

Ergo Proxy
Zone of the Enders
Argento Soma

Posted on with categories: High School of the Dead

Not since Engage Planet Kiss Dum have we seen a recap this early in a series. Obviously, something went wrong, though thankfully only the first half of the episode was a recap: the rest of the episode was new material, but even then you could see that a lot of corners were cut here, like a number of far-away shots and convenient censoring that obstructed nearly the entire screen (though admittedly, some other scenes did have very good animation).

My guess is that something went wrong with the outsourcing. Madhouse seems to be a studio that outsources a lot, and my guess is that the part of this episode that some outsourced companies were responsible for failed to deliver their work on time. Hence the sudden inclusion of a recap.

Anyway, about the actual new content of this episode, it was mainly meant to show how even the people who didn’t turn into zombies can snap and cause chaos. With the authorities gone, people have just turned to killing in order to survive. It’s an interesting varation on the “punks are beating up random people”-trope.

Oh, and there were a number of small new scenes in between the recap (it’s as if the creators want to force you to actually watch it), but the only noteworthy thing about it is that we did see organized efforts in getting everyone to safety. That smirk of that teacher however… was just too much. I can understand that the creators wanted someone with a personality that will cause conflicts, but with this guy you can just hang a neon-sign above him reading “I am an asshole”.

Also, this episode showed that Zombies react to not just any sound, but the sound of metal. People talking and yelling seem to be just fine. This really seems to be a bit of a weird design choice, if you ask me.

Oh, and the creators? They’re definitely Shaun of the Dead fans. This episode featured another cameo, and both the title of the series as the title of the episodes are references to its title.
Rating: – (Disappointing)

Posted on 25 July 2010 with categories: Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru

So, here we finally get to the background episode. Or to be more specific: the start of the background arc. The creators really wanted to give this its time to unfold, and so this episode merely deals with the introduction: we get to know what’s up with Takashiro, we get to know exactly what everyone is, and what has been causing the reincarnations. The actual past is left for the next episode.

But seriously though, this did exactly what I hoped, and it solidified the characters even more. The depth of these characters really prevented this episode from turning into a dull exposition episode, and instead it filled in the blanks in the storylines really well. I also now understand why this series is named the way it is: before this series started, I thought that that somehow was some sort of spoiler to the relationship between Luka and Yuki, but instead it refers to the nature of Takashiro: in which he’s forced to reincarnate everyone in order to stand a chance at taking down Reiga.

I guess that the whole reason for Takashiro to be infused with a Dumas, it is probably to make him able to actually kill Reiga, without reincarnating him, but that will probably be answered in the next episode. We already know that Reiga did something really bad, and Takashiro was probably the cause of that. The question now remains where Yuki ties into this: was she just “there”, or she also have an important part in that tragedy? Beyond that, we also have Luka, who seems like the only character who doesn’t seem to fit here so far. I doubt that he was there when Takashiro got his scar, and my guess is that he met Yuki at a later stage.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Giant Killing

One of the best episodes of Giant Killing so far. Everything worked so well here, and on top of that we finally got to hear some new tracks from the OST. This episode really did an amazing job in heating up the tensions between the three forwards of the ETU.

I love how they all have their own issues here. Sakai is old and past his prime, but nevertheless a veteran. Sera meanwhile has his speed to back him up, which landed him as a solid forward and a place on the team’s starters. Natsuki on the other hand can make some amazing goals, but he’s also a nutcase, and the creators have been hinting for quite a bit now at how his talent may have some unexpected drawbacks.

It’s great to see that now we finally got to see Sakai’s version of the story. His age here definitely gives a new dimension to this story, because at this point I really feel like all three of them deserve the position as forward, and aside from Natsuki’s personality, it’s not like any of them are extremes on the team: they’re all solid attackers who may not be able to score much, but Sera and Sakai have both shown that they can keep pressure forward. Natsuki in the meantime is nowhere as extreme as Tsubaki.

One of those tiny scenes I also loved was the one in which Natsuki looked at his wife with that endless optimism of his. Even though his daughter fell asleep, he still kept going with those inner monologues of him. This episode had surprisingly little attention to the supporters, but they were definitely all there, along with two new people who joined the group of older fans.

Part of what made this episode also so awesome was the background music. Interestingly, the creators had some Latin-inspired tunes, and instead of using it with the Brazilians in the previous arc, they chose for something much less stereotypical in making it symbolize Natsuki’s inner euphoria. My favourite part however was the tune that was played, just after the first goal was made, and everyone was making their counter-attack. It’s because of that tune that the goal afterwards came out of bloody nowhere. I also loved Tatsumi’s face when that goal was made: it was the face of dread, as he feared that Natsuki would get even more confident than he already was.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on with categories: Sengoku Basara

Whoa, was that Ishikawa Chiaki who suddenly performed an insert-song in the middle of this episode? Awesome, the creators here are certainly making sure to make this one a spectacle. Usually I’m not a fan of overacting, but this burning passion was exactly what prevented the first season of Sengoku Basara from standing out.

In any case, I’m glad to see that the second season is so much better balanced here. This episode was all about Maeda Keiji (who seems to have been upgraded to a lead character in this season) versus the rest of his clan, as he tried to stop them from engaging into a pointless battle.

I think that what makes Sengoku Basara more interesting than your average action series is that even though there’s a clear villain here, it’s still a complete chaos, where a lot more conflicts are going on. On top of that, the characters themselves aren’t stupid fighting machines (that’s one thing that the first season did right), but instead things lie far more complex, and I like how even though this is supposed to be an action series, it still puts a lot of focus on this dialogue.

Also, I believe that this was one of the first fantasy series that has the balls of actually animating the fact that the bodies of the characters are strong enough to stop a freaking katana. It’s great to see this actually get animated, rather than the usual thing in which we see some sort of flash, but don’t really know what exactly happened, and why someone isn’t sliced to death when being struck by such a killing weapon. Sengoku Basara isn’t the best game adaptation by far, but it definitely has the right intentions. That swordfight in the middle was definitely well coordinated.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Heartcatch Precure

As awesome as they look, I do hope that from now on the creators are going to limit the different transformation scenes in each episode. I mean, they were still fine when it was just Blossom and Marin, but now that Sunshine has arrived these scenes are starting to dominate the episode: in this episode, we had Sunshine’s transformation scene, the scene in which all precures announce their names, then there also was the part in which the heart seed was “born”, two times Sunshine’s special attack, then there’s Blossom and Marin’s special attack, plus another special attack of Blossom… it’s just too much. But I think that the creators realize this as well.

To make up for it, this episode featured the inclusion of a few new soundtracks for the series, and they really rock. They’re going to be great additions to the series’ second half. On top of that, this episode also introduced flying capes, so we’re probably also going to get a lot more aerial battles from now on. Sounds promising. Either way, I’m very curious to this second half: exactly how far will the creators go in shifting the direction of this series after the half-way point?

Anyway, about this episode: it was mostly meant to protect the Heart Tree, and prevent the bad guys from going after it in the second half. With this, we’ve also closed off the “Sunshine introduction arc”, and the next episode should give some hints about what the rest of the series will look like. The fight itself wasn’t the most interesting due to the above-mentioned transformation scene abuse, but this really was meant as an episode to introduce some of the new stuff here.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews

Perhaps it’s because I’ve watched too much anime, but I found this first of six Break Blade movies to be totally unremarkable. Sure, I guess that the soundtrack is good, (especially considering the huge budget that went into that one), and there are times at which the attention to details is quite good, but apart from that it was just so… generic.

Any potential for the future installments of this series of movies fully depends on how much the creators are going to use the build-up of this movie. Standalone though… I just wouldn’t recommend it. It’s basically just a big collection of cliches. It’s set in a fantasy world in which two big countries are at war. The lead character happens to be friends with the princess and king of one of the countries (so he can feel special and famous without the responsibilities of these jobs), while one of his other childhood friends has become a general of the other country. Oh, and he’s also the only one who can activate the “great awesome mecha of doom”. It’s all got this “been there, done that” feeling.

With so many cliches, you need something to make up for it. Break Blade so far… doesn’t. I understand that it could be holding back some trumps here and there, but it doesn’t make the best first impressions. The mecha battles are just average and unremarkable, while the money shots just come and go without leaving much of an impression. To me, this movie could have used a better direction, with a better build-up and better dynamics between the individual scenes.

The director, Tetsuro Amino has me worried, though. I mean, what is he doing, working on three projects at the same time? There are enough other talented directors out there, so he could have just decided to focus on either Hutch, Break Blade or Shiki. I’m really not looking forward to another Chiaki Kon or Akiyuki Shinbo here…

Storytelling: 7/10 – It sometimes has a good attention to detail, but it also failed to catch my attention.
Characters: 7/10 – Characters have background, but this is all minimal. They’re not bad, but they are completely unremarkable.
Production-Values: 8/10 – For a movie it has quite a few still shots, but it has enough well animated scenes. The soundtrack is recorded by an actual orchestra, but not really used well.
Setting: 7/10 – Too many cliches.

– Visions of Escaflowne
Tales of Vesperia
Tales of the Abyss

Posted on 24 July 2010 with categories: OVA Impressions

So, Black Rock Shooter has finally aired. It was a bit underwhelming, but still a pretty decent slice of life OVA about a middle schooler and a friend she makes at her first day of school. Not a lot of stuff happens throughout these fifty minutes, but it was pretty good at fleshing out its main character, and showing the progression of their relationship over a bit more than a year’s time. In the end, the drama gets a bit cheesy, but it works. It’s a pretty decent way to spend 50 minutes.

Oh yeah, and it has random girls who fight each other.

Now that’s the part I’m a bit iffy about, because it was supposed to be the selling point of this OVA. Instead, you get to watch some pretty neat animation, but the story itself just feels tacked on at best. Its purpose only gets revealed at the end of the OVA, and even then I feel like the creators should have put more effort into either combining these two, or just splitting them apart entirely. As you can see from the screenshots: it really looks awesome. It deserves much better than being some flimsy background for a story that doesn’t even need it and would actually be better off without it.

I guess that the creators originally intended the slice of life parts as a sort-of background support story for those “black rock shooter”-scenes and all, but they ended up spending so much time and effort on the high school part that it completely dwarfs out these action scenes. What I rather would have seen was just fifty minutes of those girls who fight each other, and see what they’re doing when they’re not fighting, where they came from, and what is up with the interesting locations in which they fight; that kind of stuff. They don’t need a bunch of middle school girls for that.

Pros: Neat fight scenes, good soundtrack. Pretty good slice of life.
Cons: High school part completely dwarfs the action part. Action part doesn’t really fit in.
OVA Episode Rating: 7,5/10
(Yes, I’m still experimenting with what kind of format works best when reviewing OVAs)

Posted on 22 July 2010 with categories: Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu

Okay, so it was indeed impossible for this series to live up to the previous episode, and this episode indeed wasn’t as good as the previous one. Still, it completed the introduction of this series, sending Raina on the quest that we saw him at in the first episode, filling in some of the main gaps and questions we had (as in Shion becoming king).

But seriously, this show really likes its mood swings. The banter between Raina and Ferris is just silly. They make use of every moment to snare at each other. The contrast with the otherwise serious story has some interesting effects though. The way in which Lucile is basically using Shion from the shadows is definitely no laughing matter. On one hand, this Lucile guy is being set up as the villain, and yet Ferris still is loyal to him after the decapitation of the previous episode.

I was also surprised at how well the creators handled Raina’s time in jail. The conversations he had with his guard were quite interesting to watch. The way that the two became friends was quite charming, and they actually gave a character to this guard. Two entire years passed throughout this episode and you could see that the two of them got along with each other.

Kiefer Knolles (seriously, these people have weird names; just look at MAL: Ferris Eris, Iris Eris, Klom Claugh), I also really like how she just didn’t sit on a rock for two years, waiting for Raina to get released. And instead, she found her own way of dealing with having all her classmates massacred.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on with categories: Shiki

A lot of building up was done in this episode, but it still had an excellent atmosphere. And I must say, for a studio like Daume, the art has really turned out to be quite beautiful here. The shots that use CG or strange filters are really well composed here. Character-designs like these are definitely a risk that was taken here, but it works out quite well.

The drama in this episode was a bit less due to the inclusion of some random emo teenager (or at least, that’s what he looked like). At this point, this guy is still a bit too extreme to be taken seriously, but I wonder what his purpose will be for the rest of the series. In any case this episode did a pretty good job of showing a bit of the every day lives of these people, and how they met each other, and I can very much see an extreme character like him pay off in the end. I can see that the creators were going for a bratty teenager here, so I’ll wait to see them show different sides of this kid.

Especially Natsuno showed a bit of a different side of him here. He was indifferent here, but now that he wasn’t bothered by some teen-aged girl here, he didn’t have this air of annoyance around him. His new friend also helped here, I guess.

This episode also was very much hinting at which characters we should watch out for. We finally get a good look at the owners of the castle, along what is possibly their daughter. The latter is so obviously featured in the OP and ED that she has to play a huge role here, and this episode pretty much set her up as a future antagonist. Also, the cat dude also seems to hold some secrets.

In any case, I love how the creators have been trying to include as many inhabitants of the village as possible, while giving EVERYONE distinct character-designs. Even all of the minor characters look unique, and are portrayed as people, rather than cardboard cut-outs (aside from a few old people in those rumour-scenes, I guess).
Rating: * (Good)

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