Posted on 28 June 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews, Lupin III - Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna



As the spring season approached, it seemed clear what would be the series with the most interesting staff working behind it: Sakamichi no Apollon, the director of Cowboy Bebop coming back after many years of absence to work with some of Madhouse’s top animators and the always lovely music from Yoko Kanno. And then a new Lupin series got announced.

Seriously, the people involved in this project: it’s directed by Sayo Yamamoto, who directed Michiko e Hatchin, the scriptwriting powerhouse of the recent years Mari Okada wrote the series composition, Shinichiro Watanabe (the same director of Cowboy Bebop) did the music production, Takeshi Koike is behind the character-designs, and on top of them there are some episodes written by Dai Sato (the guy who wrote Ergo Proxy and Eureka Seven) and Junji Nishimura, the director of Simoun. All of these people are responsible for masterpieces, and here they were stuffed into one single project. The result is a breath of fresh air.

Now, I do have to admit one thing:: the influence of all of them is clearly visible, but don’t expect any of them to surpass themselves here. Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna is far from as good as the series that these people became known for. When you set the standard lower and compare it to the series that have come out in the recent years though, it really stands out as something unique that anime definitely needed.

This series just oozes style from beginning to end. The character-designs are just gorgeous and every episode is just chock full of inspired images and artwork that go completely against the trend of current anime. There is a TON of nudity in this series, but the fanservice is completely different from the juvenile fanservice you see in all the other shows these days.

This series is really focused on adventures, just like the Lupin series it’s based on. This time though, the one who stands in the center is Mine Fujiko. The episodes are all varied and very different from each other, and they all are chock full of references and homages to other works of fiction that use often-used female character tropes, which it then proceeds to subvert completely. Seriously, the huge amounts of boob in this series may not make it so apparent, but Mine Fujiko is a very strong and independent character.

Beyond this, this series is also a whole lot of fun to watch: there are some episodes that have great chase scenes, others have great action scenes, yet others are much more focused on well written dialogues and yet again others thrive on using weird plot twists. It’s a really well made series.

There are a few things that do hold this series back though. First of all there are the character-designs in this series: they look gorgeous and really detailed. But they also are really hard to animate consistently, and yet, the creators definitely try to animate as much as they can. The result is unfortunately a lot of jerky movements and facial movements that just look off or strange.

The second is that this series has little character-development, but that’s just a minor issue. The creativity that went into the characters and their re-imaginations, complete with how they play off each other more than makes up for this. This is why I love remakes for anime: a lot of them are really made by fans of the franchise who don’t care about trying to recreate them as accurately as possible, but want to give their own spin to them, and Mine Fujiko to u Onna is no different. the more I write about this series, the more complete it starts to feel, and that’s a sign of a really good series.

Storytelling: 8.5/10 – Loads of variety and a bunch of great scripts that come together really well.
Characters: 8.5/10 – The characters are used really well and play off each other wonderfully. This excuses the sometimes jerky acting more than enough.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Very artistic and unique. The art is where this series set itself apart among the many shows with gorgeous graphics this season.
Setting: 8.5/10 – Where this series rocks is how there is so much to be read in between the lines. It’s a homage and a parody at the same time, and it references a wide variety of different works and uses this really well.

Suggestions:
Michiko e Hatchin
Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin
Ultraviolet: Code 044

Posted on with categories: Lupin III - Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna

So, what did Lupin decide to end with? With an exposition episode. I really expected an epic action-packed episode instead, but this works too, even though it’s a kind of ending that’s very easy to screw up by rushing through things way too much, or turning the story into something completely different.

This episode was slightly rushed, and it actually was completely different from the rest of the series, but it worked. I like the balls of the creators to go with an anti-climax like this: throughout the enitre series we’ve seen it established over and over again that Mine Fujiko was abused and raped as a childBut no, she was just brainwashed at some point and she had always been a thief like she is now. It’s awesome to see that the creators had the balls to go with such a creative ending, rather than going with the most obvious type of ending and I really appreciate this creativity.

So in the end, we still know very little about who Mine Fujiko really is, but she doesn’t have a ham-handed backstory that screams “pity me!”, and instead we’ve got a main villain with one heck of a messed up backstory. The ending was pretty much a “life goes on”-ending with Mine Fujiko getting revenge on the girl that kept her brainwashed for years, her mother is left behind in her own castle without her daughter, Oscar disappeared, and everyone else pretty much ends up doing what they’ve been doing all along. Normally I’m not too fond of these types of endings, but here they strangely fit: Lupin is a series about adventures, and this series was just a small sample of the places that these people go to. Best ending of the season so far? I’d say so.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Hyouka

What I find to be strange is that the creators go out of their way to mention the 20 rules of mystery, only to ignore a few of them, most notably the rules that state that there should be one and only one detective. For the finished product, one of the characters had to step up and take the role as detective, or perhaps the seventh person that the writer was looking for was supposed to have been that person.

Apart from that I guess Oreki’s theory fits most of the rules if you very broadly interpret them. In particular there is Knox’s first rule which says that the culprit should be mentioned in an early part of the story. Yeah, I guess that he was “mentioned” by being there through the entire course of the movie: it’s a different medium than what these rules were intended for after all. Or take the rule that says that the culprit must have played a more or less prominent part in the story: again, he has, you just didn’t realize it. There is one rule I’m a bit iffy about though: the one that says that no willful tricks may be played upon the reader. Did Oreki assume that the usage of a cameraman as an actual character wasn’t so much a trick, as it was something that is just a part of the movie?

Still, it’s pretty interesting to think that he did get things wrong. With the Hyouka mystery he only missed a few parts, but this rope is a pretty big thing to miss out on. The acting was also really well done at that moment where Mayaka called Hotarou out on this, and we definitely got to see some new sides of the characters.
Rating: *+ (Great)

Posted on 27 June 2012 with categories: Uchuu Kyoudai

I really appreciate that there are still series out there that are able to devote an episode to a single thought experiment. This episode may not have been the most eventful, but it was clever. Really clever. It took the issue of a famous TV-anchor complaining about the tax that space flight has on the economy, and created a different response for like what? 6 different characters? All of those were insightful in their own way, apart from the theory from the nervous guy perhaps. This series keeps finding new brilliant ways to use its newly huge cast.

This show doesn’t just have one smart character, it really has a bunch of them and I really like how this series is able to show the talents of all of them, especially in Mutta’s group. Mutta is the oddball who is able to think outside of the box, Serika and Nitta are the best performers in concrete tests, while the other two whose names I’ve forgotten play as the voice of reason… in completely different ways. I do wonder why the nervous guy made it all the way through the selection process: what made the quirky director take interest in him?

A few weeks ago I mentioned that this series was like a shounen series without the shounen with it having the characters carry out various assignments. This episode pushed that even further and the creators found far more interesting things for the characters to do. For that Rubix guy’s response they even did research for English philosophers on the matter.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews

Sometimes, a show comes along that has the best of intentions… but just seems to miss the boat by a few inches. Jormungand is scheduled for 24 episodes, this first season covering 12 of them and this seems to be enough time to cover its entire story about weapon dealers who travel all over the world. This should have been an awesome series, but instead this season had more than a dozen better series. So what happened?

Well first of all this season is awesome, that’s definitely a matter of bad timing for Jormungand, but even then there is a reason why it failed to stand out. I’ve seen quite a few comparisons between this series and Black Lagoon, but that’s not quite right. Black Lagoon had a cast of widely varied and colourful characters. Jormungand wants to have a cast of colourful characters, but gets a few things wrong.

The series definitely knows its basics: every episode is dedicated to give background and a story to at least one member of the cast. These backstories and developments are definitely interesting. It also fleshes a bunch of them out quite well, most notably Jonah. The problem though, is that it doesn’t do this with every character.

Now, that on its own isn’t a bad thing: the trick with a series that has a huge cast is to make every character feel unique and part of the story. And that’s where Jormungand falls down, especially with its villains. There is no big villain in this series: every arc has its own antagonists, and they’re all pretty much carbon copies of each other. The creators keep recycling two or three archetypes over and over again: the loud-mouthed complaining boss, the ditzy and spunky female sidekick and the silent soldier. After seeing the protagonists easily beat these characters over and over again with seemingly no effort, things get a bit boring. This series also really likes snarky characters, up to the point at which just about every bloody characters is snarky to some extent.

And that is a shame because a series with this concept is destined for greatness. The places that the characters visit are unique and beyond any cliches, and it really toys with the themes of weapon dealing and morality in a fresh way. And there are definitely interesting characters, but they’re just overshadowed by the unremarkable ones. But here is the thing though: it still has plenty of potential for its second season. It laid out more than enough build-up for that. The second season will have to put in much more emphasis on getting better villains, but there are plenty of hints that it will. There is plenty of interesting stuff in this first season, it just gets held back a bit. Remove that and who knows what you’ll get?

Storytelling: 8/10 – Fun action scenes and good pacing. Battles are too easy sometimes.
Characters: 7/10 – There are way too many similar characters and archetypes throughout the series. The few good characters don’t manage to save this series from being dragged down by this.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Funky soundtrack, its own visual identity and nice animation.
Setting: 9/10 – The most interesting part of this series, with still a ton of potential left for the second season.

Suggestions:
Madlax
Black Lagoon
Mobile Police Patlabor

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews

I remember that it was often a pain to sit through the first season of Kimi to Boku. Chizuru, the blond haired kid especially got on my nerves many times. The thing is however, that despite that, it did know how to build up and create good characters. And that’s the nice thing of second seasons: you’ve already done the introductions and fleshing out so you can fully focus on the good stuff.

As a result, Kimi to Boku’s second season is a lot more bearable. Chizuru definitely develops his own charm and the chemistry between the characters only gets better and better. Every episode takes one of the characters, whether this is a main or a side one, and does something clever with him or her. There’s a lot of character-development to be found in this series.

Another big difference is that the focus on drama is much greater, and by that I mean that the creators take up much more time in order to let the serious scenes play out as smoothly as possible. The result is very atmospheric. The first season had most episodes structured where most of their airtime would be random goofing-off, with some sort of redeemable twist at the end. The second season is more really slow development with you at the end realizing how much has actually been added to the characters.

You obviously need a bit of a thick skin for Kimi to Boku, because Chizuru can and will get on your nerves, but beyond that this is just an excellent drama with loads of interesting characters. The second season can be a bit slow at times, but heck: it’s been a while since a slice of life series came around that was this good with a predominantly male cast.

Storytelling: 8,5/10 – Great atmosphere, and loves to take its time to let events play out well.
Characters: 9/10 – Tons of subtle character development.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Solid animation: nothing special, but no abuse of still frames either.
Setting: 8/10 – A typical high school that for once doesn’t feel over-exaggerated.

Suggestions:

Posted on 26 June 2012 with categories: Phi Brain

This episode thankfully wasn’t as bad as the previous episodes, and instead it was just a build-up. Unfortunately though, it showed a lot about the structure of this series and how much time it has actually wasted. But before I comment on that: we finally see Rook again… only to have him state the obvious and disappear again. Great use of him, guys!

Now, about this episode: it actually went back to the brainwashing again. Even though this disappeared for nearly half a season, here it is back like nothing happened. So yes, this series will turn Kaito’s friends against him. So really? What were those previous episodes about anyway? A random repetitive tournament that revealed the motivation of the Orpheus Order and a random beach episode. None of them really said anything about any of the characters, save for that very corny backstory and returning Nonoha back to the kitchen. They did absolutely nothing with the theme of brainwashing people

If these episodes were mentioned to flesh out the characters, then they pretty much failed because none of the characters emerged as better from those episodes and some of them even regressed and became more generic. Only this episode finally tried to delve deeper into the characters, even though it had plenty of annoying moments with everyone and his dog running for president. You could have made so much better use of these episodes. Take control of a few more side-characters; continue trying to recruit Gammon again by using his sister or something. Give Nonoha a puzzle she can actually solve. There was so much potential for these episodes. You obviously don’t care about having a puzzle in every episode so you could have taken one episode off to dedicate to the past of one of the characters.

I think it’s pretty clear by now: the first season was completely planned out when Sunrise suddenly came with the announcement for a second season. And my guess really is that the script was rushed in order to get the second season to continue immediately after the first season. Sunrise has very solid planners, so keeping the animation quality up was no problem. But thinking of a completely new series with complete new threats was way too much. This is especially the case considering that Sato Junichi switched from the director to the series composition: it’s very likely that he wrote this second season while directing the remaining episodes of the first season. That’s the only explanation I can think of for such a shoddy writing-job from his side, because there are just too many things wrong with that string of six episodes.
Rating: (Enjoyable)

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Zetman



Anime as a medium has a lot of great points, but its system also has plenty of disadvantages. One of those problems: producing a full fledged anime series is expensive. Now try finding someone who’ll fund the production of a full fledged series for the adaptation of your obscure manga. This problem has been huge, especially after anime started to become more popular and the amount of series produced each season increased. Six years ago the common length of a series was 26 episodes. Today it is half of that. Zetman is another one of these series with a huge manga that had to be stuffed into just 13 episodes. This seemed like a recipe for disaster, but holy crap it definitely tried to make the most of what it had.

Let me get one thing straight though: this series is rushed. Incredibly rushed. But here is the thing: among the incredibly rushed series of only 13 episodes long, it is one of the best. The reason for that is tha the plot, while flimsy at times, never really falls apart: the story has a clear beginning, middle and end and it has a fairly good progression. The ending also doesn’t feel tacked on at the last minute and actually closes off the series properly. Sure, a lot of things had to be cut and rearranged for this, but at lest this series feels complete and not a cop-out.

This series stands out with how much raw passion has been put into it. The character designs look gorgeous when they are put into action due to all of the details that the creators put into the facial expressions of the characters. There is a lot of great animation in this series that attempts to bring the characters to life, and even though it’s clear that this series has a small budget, the creators tried to use their budget as much as possible and make every frame have a strong visual presence. Especially the first episode has some animation that deserves to be checked out, and even though the episodes after that never manage to be as well animated, there still are plenty of interesting visuals throughout the series.

This is a series about Superheroes and it pushes the limits of what it means to be a superhero throughout the series, but this series also has a lot of themes about family. Whether you should watch this series if you’ve read the Zetman manga.. I have no idea. If this isn’t the case though and you’re in for an over the top and expressive series and don’t mind many graphic themes as rape, then call this a recommendation because despite being rushed, Zetman turned out to be a very engaging series.

Storytelling: 8/10 – Should have been 39 episodes, but surprisingly this show doesn’t fall apart, nor leaves with a bad inconclusive ending.
Characters: 8.5/10 – Very expressive characters and this series loves to challenge the beliefs of its cast.
Production-Values: 8.5/10 – Amazing detail on the facial expressions. That’s the point where Zetman really set itself apart in terms of graphics this season.
Setting: 8/10 – Takes the concept of superheroes and does very interesting things with them. It just could have been so much more interesting if it had more episodes.

Suggestions:
Hitsuji no Uta
Mononoke
Shinrei Taneti Yakumo

Posted on with categories: Zetman

That was actually fairly conclusive. There was a definite “life goes on”-theme, but there is no pointless sequel hook, and in a way this kind of ending fits and definitely beats the alternative of trying to solve everything. Players still roam around the world, but there are so many of them that an epic climax isn’t going to fix that easily without some random convenient Deus ex Machina.

Instead, this episode focused on what the series has been about: the plans of the bad guys to corrupt Kouga and Jin. Haitani didn’t really stand a chance, but that’s only because of the build-up done in episode one where Kanzaki educated Jin as a human. Without that the ending would have been completely different. Kouga meanwhile would also have gone completely out of control if it wasn’t for Jin. In a way, these were anti-climaxes, but I like those when pulled off right: this episode still was action-packed and a worthy cliff-hanger, and only at the end it became clear that none of the bad guys had a chance to succeed in these particular circumstances.

Seriously, this could have been much worst. At this point, I have seen so many rushed series end horribly, but Zetman actually avoided that. Of course this series should have been 39 episodes, but for a series that was crammed in way too little time, it was a very good attempt.

I only have two complaints: first of all is that random scene in which the Sweeper came along and said that his master wanted to see him. That’s not exactly a sequel-hook, but again it’s completely pointless and didn’t belong there at all. Second is that in the end, the animation in this episode didn’t try to go back to the quality of episode one. It’s a pity, but even with that taken into account TMS Entertainment really surpassed itself this season.

Also, who was that smooth voice that suddenly popped up as a narrator?
Rating: *+ (Great)

Posted on with categories: Random Posts

For the next round of the aniblog Tourney, I’m up against the Baka Laureate. Good luck everyone, and here is the link where you can vote for the blog you like best:


http://aniblogtourney.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/last-16-part-1/

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