Posted on 27 March 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews, Another



So, Another: the season’s horror series. Let me put a fair warning out first, because for the past months I have seen a few people unpleasantly surprised by its true nature: this show is brutal. If you don’t want to watch gore, then stay as far away from this show as possible, because it contains a number of very graphic death scenes. This is particularly nasty, because it takes a while for it to reveal this nature.

A lot of the airtime in this series is spent on building up. It’s nowhere as extreme as with Blood-C, but still this show really puts emphasis on creating an atmosphere to draw the viewer in, only to toy with this in a gruesome manner. This is also what makes this show great: the contrast between surprisingly relatable characters, and the really dark and intense scenes.

With a lot of the bad horror flicks, the creators spend little time on the characters themselves, however this series avoids this very well. This goes in particular through a very solid lead couple: the two of them have creative backgrounds, they’re well fleshed out, and this series also allows the two of them to play off each other really well whenever they are together. There really is a lot of detail in their acting and dialogue.

The show also rocks in terms of mystery. The show evolves quite nicely as we learn more and more about what’s going on and the characters. The series loves to drop random hints and red herrings everywhere, which really spice up its scenario. This isn’t the series that answers everything, but the closure it gives at the end does wrap things up.

However, this series also is far from perfect. By far the biggest flaw is that it’s trying too hard at times. This series really wants to be atmospheric and haunting, but the twists it pulls at times are just to forced or obvious to take serious. Think of being in an art class, with one of the students suddenly painting “The Scream” of all things. I like symbolism, but there is a line for everything. What also seems to plague this series, especially in its second half, is that it tends to pull very convenient plot twists, just for the sake of wrapping everything up.

It’s understandable that this series wanted to get everything done in just 12 episodes, but that comes with a sacrifice. The cast of this series is huge, and unfortunately it just doesn’t have the time to flesh every single character out, even though this really could have improved this series considering the nature of the story. The same goes with the plot: with more episodes it could have wrapped things up more naturally, but that would have been at the expense of a few boring episodes. And really: the way Another is now, it’s a quick bite-sized horror show that despite its quiet moment never has a part that drags.

Storytelling: 8/10 – Excellent mystery, build-up and turns into very intense horror. Tries too hard at other times, though.
Characters: 8,5/10 – Very well acted main couple, but some of the side-characters could have been better fleshed out.
Production-Values: 8/10 – This isn’t as good as the standard that we’re used to from PA works, but this series still has its moment of very life-like animation.
Setting: 9/10 – I must say that the story behind everything is very creative, and this series knows it.

Yes, I’m also trying to experiment a bit with refining the ratings of these reviews a bit, because Another was a perfect example of a series that I liked better than most series I’d rate 82,5/100, but not as much as the series that I’d rate 85/100). Doing so would lead to a rating of 83,75/100, which is getting a bit ridiculously specific, so rounded a bit more sensibly this lead to the rating of 84/100. For me, this rating means a series with a lot of reasons to be worth watching and something I really enjoyed, which has something that holds it back from being really excellent, which describes Another perfectly for me.
Suggestions:
Ghost Hound
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
Hitsuji no Uta

Posted on 26 March 2012 with categories: Another

You know what? This is a season of very solid endings (save for Guilty Crown perhaps, but screw that show). I realized that when Another’s ending was the first ending that didn’t live up to my expectations. Oh, it was still good and i liked the closure it gave, but my expectations of this episode were high, and this episode pulled a few things that tugged on my suspense of disbelief.

The closure that was given was very solid though. To be honest, I did not consider Reiko being the ghost being a possibility. Technically she isn’t a student, But I can accept the logic of the ghost being a bit creative. This episode also didn’t really solve the calamity, it only delayed the killings for another year. I don’t mind that either. This is no story about exorcists, it’s about a bunch of teenagers trying to survive. I also liked the direction of this episode. The faces were a bit silly t times, but it nevertheless was good suspense, the action scenes were well directed and shot, and the scene with the revelation of the ghost was also quite creative.

Still, my knowledge about fire kept poking my suspense of disbelief whenever the characters were in the house: what happened to the smoke? I mean, a lot of victims of house fires don’t die because of fire, but because they inhale too much smoke. I can buy scenes with characters running through fire as fast as they can, but the characters in this episode casually walked around a burning building while feeling perfectly fine. In fact, acknowledging the fire could have lead to an interesting extra threat to this episode.

My big issue with this ending is its lack of meaning, though. I’m still not exactly sure what happened here, with the ghost breaking his own rules and suddenly deciding to try and eliminate every single member of the class with random lightning bolts, falling pillars, chandeliers and even trying to kill the dead student… for some strange reason. The people who went crazy were also nice and all, but they would have been even nicer if they actually had been fleshed out a bit. Because of that they also lacked the impact they could have had. And who on earth was that murdering maid?

And then Misaki suddenly revealed that she witnessed Meiko being killed. Of all the places she could have been. The creators could have done an epilogue that explained that: “we later found out that Meiko had been killed when.. blah blah et cetera”. Also, regarding the dolls of the first episode: what was their point again?

Overall, I think I liked Blood-C slightly more over Another (yes, I liked that show). It took much longer to get going, but in the end I liked how bold it was with its mystery, and how everything came together at the end. Another doesn’t necessarily have that ending where everything comes together, but instead it’s the journey that made it memorable, trying to figure out a way how to stop people dying the most bizarre deaths. It tried a bit too hard at times, but overall I’d rank this in the top five shows of the Winter 2012 season..

A review will be posted tomorrow, because it’s too late now (where I am anyway). Why on earth do four series decide to end all at the same bloody time?
Rating: *+ (Great)

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Natsume Yuujin-Chou



Let’s get this out of the way first: out of the series that debuted in the past Winter Season, Natsume Yuujin-Chou’s fourth season was by far my favorite. Can you watch it without having seen the other three seasons? No. It very clearly builds further upon what these three seasons did. It doesn’t matter though, because every series of Natsume Yuujin-Chou is truly excellent. Few series can boast to be as genuine and heart-warming as this one.

The people who have already watched the first three seasons know what to expect: episodic stories and small arcs about a boy who can see spirits, and all of the problems and miracles that come with it. The episodic nature again makes it a very varied series that changes every week, and again this series has a very good balance between really heart-warming stories, and stories that are almost like a thriller. The stories still are very cleveryl constructed, and yet they play out very naturally and believably. This season also likes its character studies, and quite a few side-characters also manage to get their place in the spotlight to actually develop themselves a bit.

Every season of Natsume also has a slightly different tone from the other. The first was about quiet and relaxing stories about all sorts of youkai Natsume meets. Season 2 instead put the focus more on the main plot and various recurring characters. The third season was dedicated to Natsume’s development, and the fourth season is about Natsume’s relationship with the people around him. Imagine what a wonderful total picture this all creates! And indeed, the cast still is amazing, in particular Natsume has gotten so much development at this point.

What makes the fourth season stand out in particular is that out of all the four seasons, it’s got the best beginning and the best ending. It really saved its best stories for those points, and especially the ending is a treat. The stories in the middle are also very good, but not as good as the middle episodes of the first and the third season. I’d really consider the First, Third and Fourth season to be just as good, all with their own highlight and standout stories that rock in their own ways, either by being incredibly heart-warming, really well told, consistently tense and intriguing, amazingly built up, wonderfully acted, or just all of those together. This series still is a huge believer of subtlety over bombast, and this leads to some of the best acting of the season.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Great variety, masterful at retaining a subtle atmosphere, and manages to consistently tell heart-warming stories.
Characters: 9/10 – Natsume has 52 episodes of development right now, and this season just continues to add things to his character. The side characters also get a lot of time to flesh themselves out and develop.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Great and very consistent animation. Perhaps not the best of the season, but there are a few very talented animators flexing their muscles here.
Setting: 9/10 – Everyone around Natsume is the main focus of this series. Yes, the setting got even better.

Suggestions:
xxxHolic
Porfy no Nagai Tabi
Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi

Posted on with categories: Natsume Yuujin-Chou

Yeah, this was pretty much the best ending of the season. In fact, out of all of the four natsume seasons, this season had the best final episode. This was definitely in my top 5 of favrotie Natsume episodes. If this turned out to be the last we’ll see of Natsume Yuujinchou, then I don’t mind this at all with such a wonderful closing episode.

This episode had a lot of parallels to that one episode of the third season, where Natsume met Touko (that one overall turned out to be my favorite Natsume Yuujinchou, out of all the 52 that were aired), but there were some huge differences here. Both were meant to show how hard Natsume’s childhood was, but that episode was about Natsume and his fears of not being able to do anything. This episode (and arc, really, it was about Natsume’s fears of responsibility. In this case, he wasinvited by a really nice family, and yet he didn’t want to cause any sort of trouble for them. You can see Natsume get a lot colder after the events of this episode when you look at the other flashbacks. Only when he met Touko he started to open up again.

The house part was kept wonderfully subtle. The creators said so much here with so little dialogue. It was incredibly heart-warming.

Overall, the fourth season: it has the best beginning and ending of all four seasons, while in the middle part it was a bit outclassed by seasons 1 and 3. Still, it had a point and purpose, and it still was really worth the watch. When I first started watching this, I really didn’t expect this to go on for 52 whopping episodes, but I’m definitely glad that it did. This was by far the best Winter 2012 series.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on with categories: Mirai Nikki

I had already been spoiled for about half of the major twists in this episode (which also makes this a very bad show to want to rewatch by the way), but after finally seeing the complete picture in which everything is explained I definitely gained a new appreciation for this series. I think the only thing that’s left to be explained is what exactly Yuno’s diary means by “Happy end”. I mean, twice it obviously hinted at the two of them having sex and all, but it still makes no sense to see that as an actual “end”. I think that the best example of creative use of broadcasting schedules was with Michiko e Hatchin. It totaled 22 episodes, yet ran for two full cours and while it had a ton of random hiatuses, it also had random weeks in which it suddenly decided to air two episodes at once. We need more series like that.

As for Yukiteru, I think that this guy improved a lot. There indeed was a long while in this series where he had the bad main character syndrome, but in this episode he again was pretty interesting to watch.

Also for the record, Mirai Nikki has a very strange broadcasting schedule: with this there are still 3 episodes left, so this show will actually end on April 21st, a time when most of the spring series have already started (with the exception of Hyouka and that idol show, I believe). I like that. Screw the fact that you have to end at the final week of march. If this show wants to have 26 episodes, it can have them. It makes things a bit difficult to organize, but who cares?
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 25 March 2012 with categories: Aquarion Evol

Now this was just entertaining as hell. Really, all of the three big sci-fi shows this season really delivered excellent episodes to close off their first halves and they really surpassed themselves with it. Mouretsu went the politics route, Rinne no Lagrange toyed with the scenario, and Aquarion was the one who just went all out with its action. This was really an episode full of adrenaline, and very entertaining to watch as it yet again made excellent use of its romances.

.. with perhaps one exception. This is something that has annoyed me about other anime as well. I mean, on average, women are physically weaker than men. Having a really physically weak girl in the cast, makes sense. However, for the love of god: quit having women faint so often. I mean, not only does this just get pulled way too often, but it also pretty much puts the girl in question out of the picture for as long as she’s unconscious.

But I digress, when she woke up, the doll girl and her romance with the spy guy definitely made up to that. Then there was that bizarre part where Mikono got.. abducted and hold like a trophy, only to be rescued again (thankfully), followed by what can only be described as an orgy as six pilots fused together. I really was entertained throughout the entire episode.

Next episode should prove to be very interesting, because it’s here where the huge difference between Mari Okada and Shoji Kawamori comes into play: deaths. On one hand I have often been trolled by Kawamori’s deaths, and I often feel that these are a bit meaningless, if the characters turn out to be dead at all, where on the other hand Mari Okada loves making her deaths meaningful, and her scripts don’t use implied deaths at all. In this episode the death of two characters was implied, so next week will be a huge rope pulling match between these two. I really hope that Mari Okada wins, because I very much prefer how she handles death in her stories, but the two of them are both so over the top that it’s got to be a lot of fun to watch.
Rating: **+ (Excellent+)

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Rinne no Lagrange




By far the biggest problem of the past season was a lack of ambition. The series were all very solid, but but a lot had the “this could have been much better”-syndrome. If only the creators took more chances and came up with some more imaginative premises, this season would have been amazing, because in terms of execution there certainly was the potential for that. Rinne no Lagrange was one of the most apparent examples of this, where we have a fun, exciting and interesting series about a teenaged girl who has to protect her school from invading aliens inside a mecha with special powers.

Yeah, there probably aren’t a lot of people inclined to pick this up based on just that premise. But really, the exeucution definitely makes it worth watching and the creators definitely tried to bring something appealing to such an overused story. For starters, it smartly turns the invading aliens into more than just a horde of monsters intent to destroy the earth. They’re civilized, they actively try to sympathize with their opponents and some of them also try to oppose causing unnecessary bloodshed. This series also cares a lot about continuity: houses that get destroyed remain destroyed in the next episode and it also subtly shows that there are giant mechas fighting near innocent people who have never been in a war themselves.

Beyond that, this is a series that focuses on the relationship between its three main characters. In the character department, it’s this that really stands out. The characters alone aren’t really special. There are a lot of cliches, they’re a tad too perfect at times and this show has really awkward moments of fanservice, but together they play off each other wonderfully. This also goes for the side characters, by the way. They really manage to flesh each other out. Some very good direction and camera work helps with this, and makes this show quite witty and fun when it wants to.

So yeah, it’ s a shame that the subject material of this show is slightly dull. These creators could really have made an epic series, but in the end, too little just happens for it to warrant that. Instead it chooses to let its story and characters play out, and while that produces a solid series, it really would have been nice a little less cliches, a little less focus on schools, and a little more complex characters.

There will be a second season though, so who knows whether the creators are saving that for then.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Snappy direction, solid action, great atmosphere. A tad slow-paced, but fun.
Characters: 8/10 – Solid, great chemistry, but there are a few too many moe cliches, and the characters could have been more detailed.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Solid. Nothing special for this season’s standards, but the action is still very solid.
Setting: 8/10 – The continuity in this series is very well done. Beyond beyond that though, it does little more.

Suggestions:
Mahou Shoujotai
Gakuen Senki Muryou

Posted on with categories: Rinne no Lagrange

You know what? This was my favorite ending of the season so far. Or in any case semi-ending, because we’ve still got the second season upcoming summer, and the big ones (Natsume, Chihayafuru) still haven’t ended yet. This episode featured a great climax, it was a great aftermath, and it included a bunch of very nice hooks for the second season.

Of course a straightforward climax can work really well if executed right, I always appreciate the endings that try something more than that. For this episode to start with the aftermath, right after last week’s cliff-hanger was a very good idea. For a minute I really wasn’t sure what was going on because Rin and Madoka were also acting a very cheesy romance for some of their school mates, but once the actual climax started, everything fell into place. I like that.

As for the hooks for the next season, it was a great idea to break up the group for a bit and have everyone go their own way for a moment. This makes it more than just a “see you in three months”-ending, but it’s a great moment in this show for a pause in the story. Yes, this is the great thing about 2-cour original stories. They really can be tailored to anime format.

Overall, this Winter Season played out very much like I thought it would. What seemed like the biggest problem really turned out to be true: this season had a lot of great staff, but the one thing it lacked was ambitious premises. This resulted in a lot of very solid stories that however could all have been amazing, if only they took more risks and displayed more interesting plots. Rinne was very fun and entertaining, and I really feel that if it had a more ambitious story, that didn’t revolve around yet another high school, it really could have been a classic.

At the moment, what I fear is going to be the biggest problem of the upcoming Spring Season: strange staff choices. Appolon has mediocre scriptwriters (one wrote the Stitch adaptation, the other was responsible for the horrible adaptation of Persona), Tsuritama will be written by the guy who outlined Suite Precure of all things, Uchuu Kyoudai will be adapted by Makoto Uezu (out of the 20 series this guy did the series composition for, I only liked four, two of which are the two Sunred seasons), Zetman will be adapted by a guy who is notorious for taking huge liberties with source material, and often very rushed stories, the guy who wrote Guilty Crown will be doing another series, and out of all things we have Shoji Kawamori and Mari Okada doing an idol show. On top of that Jormundgand also looks very intriguing, but it’s got a really bad director. These are a ton of shows who have a lot of potential, but what I’m most afraid of is that that one person at the wrong place will take away that potential. And that for so many series.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Hunter X Hunter

Okay, so I was wrong. I mean, I still think that the previous episode left things to be desired in the cinematography department, but for some reason I actually thought that Canary was killed and wasn’t meant to appear after this. And then this episode starts out by fleshing her out. Either my memory deceived me, or these are two different yet both interesting ways to show her, but I don’t have the time right now to watch the corresponding episode of the 1999 series to be sure.

Also, I really liked Killua in this episode. I do have to wonder how these chains work he was hanging from, because they defy various laws of physics at first sight, but this episode added a ton of details to his character, and finally expanded a bit on his need for friends. His father at first seemed really out of character with this fatherly talk, but I like how the creators made use of how we’ve never seen him before.

One scene I did feel that didn’t work out as well was near the end of the episode, where Killua ran into his mother. Something seemed off, and the way these scenes cut into each other was a bit sloppy. I’m not sure what it is, but when that Zoldyck theme starts playing right from out of nowhere it also tends to break the mood, rather than add to it. It’s a bit too abrupt and unlike most tracks doesn’t feature any lead-ins whatsoever. It’s just silence…. CHOIRS!!!
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 24 March 2012 with categories: Mouretsu Pirates

The direction of this episode was superb. I mean, Mouretsu Pirates never really stood out through its animation, but the designs of the ship was really creative, and the camera work was really solid. I really liked this episode and it was a great conclusion to the Gruier arc.

So if I understand things correctly, Gruier was actually in the wrong here. What she wanted to prevent is the monarchy from increasing its influence. Her sister kept using the ghost ship, or rather the device that was used to create the royal bloodline of Serenity, to cling to it, and she wanted to end that once and for all, in order to move on. Interestingly, she seemed to assume that members of the family were still being produced, so she actually was ready to at least prevent these births. I guess that this is why she enlisted the help of pirates.

I really like how this show weaved actual complex politics into its story beyond the “let’s wage wars in order to end all wars”, or stuff like that. Again this show takes its audience seriously and I really appreciate that. On top of that, this episode had the best characterization, and I loved how the characters subtly played off each other. With this, I really have to say that overall, Mouretsu Pirates ended up as my favorite of the three big sci-fi shows of Winter 2012.
Rating: **+ (Excellent+)

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