Posted on 27 January 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews

So, for those of you who don’t know: Noitamina is a timeslot started back in 2005, dedicated to showing anime for an older audience and touching upon themes that are beyond the norm for anime. 2010 was a huge year for it: it upgraded to having two series air per season, on top of showing three brilliant series right after each other (Sarai-Ya Goyou, Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei and Shiki). Unfortunately these didn’t sell so well.

This lead to a completely different direction for the timeslot in 2011: it actually started making series that focused on a younger audience. Yeah, the same audience that every other show was also focusing on. In particular Fractale and Guilty Crown were very unnerving examples because of how they also dumbed down their own content and characters. For a long while the future of the timeslot was uncertain. Of course an experimentation into different audiences should be encouraged, but the timeslot shouldn’t stay in this and lose the thing that made it stand out in the first place. Thankfully, with Thermae Romae the producers have shown that they haven’t run out of their drive to experiment anytime soon. Yes, we here have a series about roman baths.

This probably is the first full comedy that the timeslot aired. It did feature funny series before, but the humour never was as important to the whole series as here. What makes this series work so well is the deadpan humour that it uses. It’s got this great lead character who is a roman architect in charge of building baths, and throughout the entire series he keeps taking himself seriously, even though some really weird stuff happens to him. The show is only six episodes long, and each episode is just ten minutes, so it’s perfect if you want to watch a little bite-sized comedy that touches upon something different for a change.

It’s just a damn shame that out of all the production companies to get their hands on adapting the manga for this series… it had to be the single worst one out there. The animation i this series is just completely abysmal. Instead of actually animating the characters, they just stand as cardboard cutouts on the screen and wiggle back and forth with bad flash transitions. This feels more like a fancy visual novel than an actual anime, and it’s the same in a long line of terribly animated gag stories like High Score, Haiyoru Nyaruani, that gothic teacher one and Himitsu Kessha Countdown. With Thermae Romae, they finally sat down and actually got themselves some good source material, and it shows, even through their crappy translation. But how good this series should have been if it didn’t have such awkward animation and direction.

Storytelling: 9/10 – In particular the deadpan dialogue works really well for a comedy, and it’s well written here.
Characters: 8/10 – The only one who really stands out is the main character. But he is so enjoyable to watch that he dwarfs the unlikable and one-sided other characters.
Production-Values: 5/10 – I usually don’t try to be harsh on bad animation: sure, it’s nice to have good animation, but it’s not vital for a good series. Here though, the animation is so bad that it really does get in the way of the story. And that’s a bad thing.
Setting: 9/10 – It’s baths in Rome, with a little japanese twist.

Suggestions:
Marie & Gali
Hetalia Axis Powers
Gag Manga Biyori

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Hyouge Mono



Nowadays, there are few series that you could really call unique. Nearly all shows base their ideas and concepts off of some other work that came before them, or build further upon concept introduced anywhere else. Once in a while though, an anime appears that just can’t be compared to anything. Hyouge Mono is one of those series.

I mean, seriously, I’ve got nothing. At first sight this might be lumped with the other historical series, but there are just a ton of elements in this series that no other historical anime has. Here we have a series of 39 episodes that is solely about a bunch of old guys talking about aesthetics, while making the most bizarre faces in the process. Beyond my wildest expectation, this series ignores just about every convention that has been established over the past ten years and just goes into its own direction. It has really been years since I last saw a show do that.

Being unique is of course one thing, but you still need to be interesting. A show can be unique, but a chicken riding a unicycle while singing the Estonain National Anthem is too, but that perhaps isn’t the most interesting to watch. Thankfully though, Hyouge Mono is a delight to watch for those who are looking for something slow, yet substantial. There are a lot things that this show does right.

The acting in particular is just sublime. This series managed to deliver the most accurate version of the Sengoku era we’ve seen so far (which admittely isn’t that hard with shows as Sengoku Basara), and put down very believable portrayals of characters like Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and the tea master Sennou Rikyuu. And on the other hand it’s also chockfull of the most bizarre facial expressions that are almost glorified throughtout the entire series. And strangely enough, these two extremes blend in really well. The performances of the main characters in particular is stunning, but also the side characters (and that cast is HUGE) shines with very diverse and true to life characters.

By far the biggest mystery of this show is how on earth it managed to land itself a whopping 39 episodes. In a time when all experimantal series can consider themselves lucky if they can get 13 episodes, and here this show comes from out of nowhere with a length three times of that. Because of that, it can get really in-depth into its subject material. This both is a really good look into history, but it’s in particular the detail into aesthetics, and the teachings of “wabi sabi” that really stand out in this series.

In terms of flaws, I’d say that this series is a little too slow for its own good at times. It’s not exactly dragged out or anything, but when you look at each individual episodes, there is relatively little that actually happens, for the sake of detail, and that balance at times was skewed a bit too much to the slow side. The visuas in this series are limited, but most of the times they try to make very good use of their budget. There are some exceptions here, resulting in badly drawn faces on what are actually key moments.

Also, this series can be quite misleading in its actual subject matter. At first it might seem like there will be quite a bit of attention into medieval warfare, and the first half of the series has some very interesting battles (including what could possibly be one of the best death scenes of the most recent years). There really is signfiicantly less action and even more talking in the second half. The action that’s there however is incredibly stylish. This is a series that really evolves and changes over time, amd the conclusion they went with really fits the series perfectly.

Storytelling: 8/10 – Excellent direction. A bit slow at times, but the use of camera angles and the dialogue are just wonderfully written.
Characters: 9/10 – The acting for these characters is just sublime. Rock-solid performances from the main cast in particular.
Production-Values: 8/10 – The animation is simple. but very effecitvely used with very detailed character designs. Soundtrack also is excellent, but doesn’t get many chances to really stand out due to its restricted nature.
Setting: 10/10 – Spends a huge amount of time fleshing out the teachings of wabi sabi, japanese tea ceremonies, and is an amazing look at the days of the Sengoku Era.

Suggestions:
Not gonna even attempt to find similar series for this one

Posted on with categories: Hyouge Mono

And so it has ended. I originally thought that Sasuke would arrive to do something crazy, but this also was the perfect way to end this series with: an entire episode dedicated to the ceremony of Sennou Rikyuu, committing harakiri. It gave a beautiful closure to this series and definitely set the standards for the endings of the rest of the year. As usual, Bee-Train definitely did not disappoint.

The build-up in particular was wonderful here, and I especially loved the last moments between Rikyuu and Sasuke, who was the one who ended up killing him. The final scene of the series really made an impact here: it was just Sasuke carrying Rikyuu’s head. No aftermath, nothing. It was entirely about the ending of a visionary.

Overall, the last third of this series turned out to be completely different from what I imagined. The reason for this was that suddenly the main character role shifted to Rikyuu, and this series started to explore exactly why he ended up committing harakiri here. It was completely different from the first third, which was centered around Oda Nobunaga’s conquests, and the second third, which was about Sasuke building up his influence. The fromer were crazy, while this was far more dark and brooding. The picture they all paint together however is wonderful.

I can only hope. Hope that there will be more series like this that don’t care one single bit about being moe or delivering bishies. Series that just have a completely unique vision and aren’t afraid to fully go with it. It perhaps didn’t end up as an utter classic due to a bit of a slow pacing here and there, but it once again reminded me why Koichi Mashimo is one of my favorite directors. I am really, really looking forward to his next work.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 26 January 2012 with categories: Winter 2012 Kaleidoscope

This was the kind of drama that borders on cheese, yet stays away from it. It’s a bit forced at times, but the acting and direction actually managed to save it.

Unlike last week, this episode gets back on track again with the themes that made this show catch my attention: the loneliness of the lead character. This episode delved more into her upbringing, and showed how she turned into the character she is today: she’s got no problem with fancy dress parties or holding speeches in front of a lot of important people (in fact, that was so trivial that it was just skipped over), and the big focus of this was her desire of real emotions, rather than the fake ones. I like that.

On the downside it did get a bit too dramatic at times. Those two guys talking behind her back were a bit too much for example, but I guess that people love to bitch about the rich and famous (although this is rare to see in anime, where the rich are for some reason always celebrated and revered). It’s more that the acting still is rather one-sided, like how just one suspicious romantic mishap immediately causes her to blow a fit and dump the poor butler, and things like that need to change if this show wants to go anywhere. With a little hope that new guy will bring change in that.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on with categories: Tantei Opera Milky Holmes

The big danger of this second season is the entire premise of it: the way in which the lead characters have completely forgotten how to be detectives. I mean, it’s original, but this also means that they’ll be pretty much goofing off instead of doing detective stuff. That’s what this episode was about.

Just… nothing happened here. This really was the characters goofing off on and on. They were just randomly fighting with each other, and playing Jenga of all things. For most of the first half of this episode, I thought that the creators perhaps finally lost their inspiration. And then everyone started sleeping.

The dream sequences were just hysterical. Dreams intertwining has been done before of course, but this one did it with such energy that it just immediately became funny. It was also completely absurd when people suddenly started using their Toys in order to manipulate these dreams. My favorite was turning that clock into the giant robot.

Also, near the end of the episode it also became clear that the goofing off is intentional and part of the story. It heavily hinted that this won’t be the status quo for much longer. Why they decided to turn Hercule into a closet pervert, I have no idea though.

Also, regarding the animation: I found out that Seiya Numata, on top of designing the characters, has also been promoted to the chief animation direction for this series. For the first season he only did a few episodes (which really showed by the way), but here his influence is in every single episode. It’s really great to see that after Shion no Ou he finally can show his an animation across an entire series again.

I also love how different these two series look. Shion no Ou had a limited budget and some unconventional animators, and it turned into a series that made extremely good use of this limitation by making every shot count. Milky Holmes instead has a much bigger budget, and therefore focuses more in bringing life to all of the scenes. It’s all very addictive.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 25 January 2012 with categories: Chihayafuru

Okay, so this was the kind of annoying recap episode that you can’t just skip through, but actually had some new content. At the start of the episode, in the middle, at the end and after the ED were some collections of skits between the different characters. Well, I guess that if you want to animate those, then this is the perfect place for it. And as an added bonus, unlike the Mirai Nikki skets, these were actually quite funny.

Do I think that a recap episode fits in a series like this? Nah, not really. This show is simple, yet well executed. That’s not the kind of story that would really benefit from having everything repeated again. Especially considering how the creators could have actually used this episode to at least get some sort of epilogue going at the end of the season. Seriously, out of all the Autum 2011 series that are still airing, this one really is the best. But there is no way in which it’s also going to have the best ending.
Rating: (Enjoyable)

Posted on 24 January 2012 with categories: Mirai Nikki

Okay. Something happened here. I’m not sure what, but this episode was much more fun than usual. The flaws of this series are still there. I mean, there was a point at which Yukiteru’s diary predicted exactly what traps he’d fall in, and yet he didn’t even notice realize this. On top of that, I have no idea why Seventh at the end didn’t just destroy the diaries of two competitors.

I think what really sold me on this episode was Yuno’s mindless enthusiasm. Before, I liked her character, but I couldn’t yet see why everyone was gushing over her. The part at the beginning of the episode, where she just sneaked in and prepared food for Yukiteru: that probably was my favorite moment of her so far. Now that’s a stalker..

Seventh also pretending to be Eighth was a nice twist, including making up these weird powers like being able to see the future of the next person you flirt with (wtf?). They’re still rather big stereotypes at this point, but it does work that they’re complete opposites of Yuno and Yukiteru. I do admit that I found the first half of this show a bit boring at times, but if it has indeed been building up to something bigger, I can still turn into a fan of it.

Also, I like the new OP and ED. In particular the animation, safe for the rather forced bits of the previous OP.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Another

Yeah. You can really see that the director of Blood-C is working on this thing.

The animation may not be as good here, and it also doesn’t necessarily have the same style of characterization, but this episode really showed: the horror is uncompromising. Censorship is for wimps and when someone dies, it is in full graphic detail.

The execution in this episode was also quite a bit better here. The thing with this show is that the animation isn’t really impressive. But if the animators need to animate something well, they do it. The dolls completely disappeared after the first half of this episode. And meanwhile, the doll shots in the shop were actually put in context. The rest of the episode made use of a few interesting cuts or camera angles that worked much better. As for the final climax… I’m a bit iffy on the use of music: that could have been better used, but it was such an over the top death that I can’t really think of a track that would have fitted such a scene better.

The classmates in this episode also surprised me by not being annoying. It’s very tempting to just throw in the usual annoying classmates to make the lead character look normal, however this show doesn’t really need to. Things are strange enough for the main character to stand out, so they can actually make for some rather down to earth characters. In particular the dialogue between them was the best so far.

And yeah, the atmosphere in this show works quite well. I really hope that the creators can keep this up for the rest of the series.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 23 January 2012 with categories: Aquarion Evol

What the hell did I just watch?

In any case, in terms of soundtracks, there are quite a few good ones this season. There is of course the usual Natsume dreamy soundtrack. Rinne no Lagrange is also quite intense and well timed. By far the best though, is Aquarion Evol. This is pretty much the best thing that Yoko Kanno has done in a really long while. I really realized that once that piano guy started playing: that is some really complex music. And on top of that, the soundtrack is just huge.There were so many different epic tracks in just this episode, and it doesn’t look like the creators are running out anytime soon. A lot of effort really has gone into this thing.

Now, going back to the infinity punch: wut?

I must say, I did not expect things like that from this series. I thought it was just a regular mecha series that would show a bunch of normal battles between a bunch of giant robots. The battle in this episode however, really was something else. I mean, a show like Star Driver used the concept of using one’s libito to power a mecha before, but this really took the cake with that punch that circled the earth several times, only to break down the Berlin Wall. that separates the males from the females. Um, symbolism anyone?

I also love that at the end, that infinity punch didn’t disappear or something. So right now the entire world is now polluted by this gigantic arm that is wrapped around it twice. That must be one bitch to clean up in the end. Speaking of the end of the episode, it promised total chaos next week. Knowing the creators, I have no idea what to expect. It’s especially unlike Shoji Kawamori to pull twists like this this early in the game already?

Also, what was up with that flamboyant headmaster? On hindsight it just seems so surreal what he had been doing. He knew about Mikono, so he dressed up like this drifter, and got into the boat she was supposed to take away from the island, only to drive her back again. Again, this feels like some weird satire on Star Driver of all things.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Natsume Yuujin-Chou

Oh my god, Natsume. Are you really delivering another brilliant episode? Seriously, even the previous seasons had episodes that slightly disappointed or didn’t work out as well as the others. This season has delivered one amazing story after the other.

Interestingly, this wasn’t necessarily about Natsume’s development. Instead, we’ve got a story entirely dedicated to a youkai here. In this episode it still was apparent how much Natsume has grown over the past seasons, but it really was about this quirky youkai that runs into him, along with a story of what happened in the youkai’s past.

For one, the Youkai was delightful to watch. He really nailed being funny, while also not getting lost in his own quirk. This guy is funny, but also surprisingly complex for a youkai. All in all it was a really interesting twist on the usual “youkai versus human romance”. It masterfully stayed away from cheese, despite an arranged marriage being used, along with “we can’t meet because we’re different!”. The ending in particular was delightfully light-hearted, yet incredibly charming. For the girl, it probably was a very nice experience, after which she went on and lived the rest of her life doing who knows what. All we see here is the side of the story of a youkai who is full of guilt for what he did.

I also realize now that the third season had surprisingly little of the book of friends. Because of this it’s also been quite a while since we last saw Reiko. With these opening episodes, you’d think that this season would be more about Matoba and Reiko, but with this series you’ll never know what the next story will focus on.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

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  • K-Off
    (Monday, May 30. 2016 07:04 AM)
    @Aidan Can you somehow give me the ability to ban devices, apart from IP addresses? I get a message every few hours telling me I’ve got a message from that fucking spambot in the Primerose review, whose IP address changes with each new comment.
  • SuperMario
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 10:38 PM)
    @Bam: I just glanced over the lightning in a Bottle 2016 and it’s quite impressive. Grimes, Chet Faker, Hundred Waters, Jamie xx? Yay. Yoga & meditation class? Count me in!!
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 09:40 PM)
    @afgm, positive. DS2 relies too much on mobbing your character and the bosses are terribly unimaginative. DS3 has faster combat that DS1 but I still think DS1 one bosses are better and DS3 had less interesting level design than DS1. Plus DS3 also focuses a bit too much on Mobbing and referencing DS1 instead of making it’s own lore.
  • afgm
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 07:49 PM)
    @Aidan are you sure you aren’t looking back on DS1 with rose-tinted glasses?
  • Wicked
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 05:39 PM)
    Other wise I’d have recommended Life and Limit by Keiko Suenobu or maybe something like Mars. Although I don’t think Mars ages very well
  • Wicked
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 05:33 PM)
    @kaiser Shoujo don’t tend to be as twilight zone-y as Partner, plus it’s only 3 volumes. There are shoujo that deals with heavy subject matters like bullying or forbidden love, but i don’t know if that’s what the person is asking for
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 03:27 PM)
    @Wicked: That was a decent enough manga, that Partner series, I like a good dark shojo and it was well enough in that regard within what its genre/demographic could get away with and its story fit comfortably its three volume run.
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 03:14 PM)
    @K-Off, DSII was a disappointment somewhat salvaged by the DLC. DSIII is much better but still doesn’t top DSI.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 03:05 PM)
    @K-off: sorry I’m actually in your (former) neck of the woods about 50 miles north of Orange, working at a music festival called lightning in a Bottle. You’ll love Dark Souls III if you’re patient enough. So much of it is a direct homage/copy of the original that it feels like a shelved fanfic at times, but there is polish and some ingenuity behind some of the deeper nuances of the game.
  • K-Off
    (Sunday, May 29. 2016 06:24 AM)
    @Bam Finally going to start DSIII this monday, I’ll have to see what’s so special about this one since I wasn’t the biggest fan of DSII.

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