Posted on 30 September 2012 with categories: Monthly Summaries

The summer season was quite small, but it stood out. It had one of the best shows of the year, and it had creative premises and executions. It perhaps wasn’t the best summer season out there, but definitely worth watching. And really: there was only one show that I kept watching that really went and disappointed all the way. Apart from that, even the ones that didn’t live up to what I expected still had something interesting to redeem themselves with.

#19 (45) – Hiiro no Kakera – (4.1/10) – The biggest crime of this series is being bland. Way too bland. Have an interesting concept. Have charismatic characters. Have interesting plot twist. Have funny jokes, anything, for god’s sake! Dropped.
#18 (16) – Tari Tari – (7.5/10) – Tari Tari… you should have tried harder. I mean, it’s fine and all that you want to just be a random slice of life show, but you should have tried to use your characters a bit more. Wien remained a joke for the entire series, and the eventual pay-off: the final performance, turned out to be a lazy montage.
#17 (17) – Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon – (7.9/10) – Very over the top, but there still is something missing here. And don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely entertaining, but I just feel like this could have been much more considering the potential it had.
#16 (10) – Rinne no Lagrange – (8/10) – The problem with this month’s Rinne no Lagrange was that it was trying to be too epic. That didn’t really mix in with the other messages of the show, unfortunately and the characters kept bouncing a bit between two extremes. It had some nice moments, but I feel that it would have been better if they just focused on either of the two.
#15 (14) – Saint Seiya Omega – (8.1/10) – Yet again this show proves that you can be simple, yet effective. It all was basic action right now, but because of how consistent it has been for the past months it worked as the mid-climax for this series. I mean, I’m starting to grow a liking to the characters, which is a sign of good build-up.
#14 (13) – Sword Art Online – (8.1/10)I do want to get one thing straight: I don’t dislike this series, and it does some things fascinatingly well. But at others it’s unfortunately still a wasted potential, not to mention how it came with that bizarre plot twist involving Yui that just felt completely out of place.
#13 (9) – Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita – (8.25/10)

I feel like it would have been better for this series if the episodes of this month were shown a bit earlier, because that’s where we finally saw some depth on Watashi. Still, because of that this ending did have its charm, ending with the beginning and all.

#12 (12) – Moyashimon – (8.25/10)

Moyashimon was very entertaining, and after its dull in the middle it did manage to recover itself. The fact remains however that it had a bit of a bad premise for an entire sequel. I mean, the side plot of the wine brewing girl was much more interesting than Haruka’s arranged marriage. It’s the rest of the cast that really managed to save this series with their chemistry.

#11 (15) – Phi Brain – (8.25/10)

Aaaand the final month of Phi Brain’s second season was also its best. Who would have guessed? The thing is that everything came together, and it actually delivered what it promised: really good character-development. Sure, it was ridiculously silly, but the build-up actually paid off. And for that I’m willing to cut it a lot of slack.

#10 (6) – Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki – (8.4/10)

This show still is just consistently delightful. Every week it just manages to find so many relatable situations that are also just so funny to watch. The alien episode was the best one this month.

#9 (11) – Uta Koi – (8.4/10)

The best month for Uta Koi. It had a lot of interesting stories and it ended with a really neat ending that fitted this show really well. Having an episode dedicated both to Fujiwara no Teika and the writer of Genji Monogatari was really interesting to watch.

#8 (8) – Kokoro Connect – (8.5/10)

The third arc was better than the second, and not as good as the first. With three episodes the creators definitely managed to do some interesting things, and especially the character development was top-notch with the way the arc was set up.

#7 (7) – Shirokuma Cafe – (8.5/10)

There was one episode that had me completely in stitches. It’s been months since I laughed that hard, and that is really important for this series at this point: it shows that it still has more than enough material for its second half of 26 episodes. Really , that’s my biggest fear for this series: that 52 episodes will be too much for it to handle. That episode beyond being utterly hilarious was a big confidence boost.

#6 (new) – From the New World – (8.6/10)

What an opening episode! I mean, with the very first new episode of the season, From the New World set a damn high standard to live up to, with a fantastic directing style and an intriguing setting. On top of that A-1 pulled some top-notch animators out of its hat.

#5 (4) – Hyouka – (8.6/10)

The height of Hyouka was the Juumonji arc. The past number of episodes were still really good, but didn’t show the series at its best. Nevertheless, it definitely was a fitting way to close off the series with some very character-focused episodes.

#4 (3) – Eureka Seven Ao – (8.6/10)

We’re nearly at the climax, and Eureka Seven just continues to deliver its plot twists. It does so in a very good way though. There may have been a number of plotholes, but the twists themselves were fun and were very entertaining to watch.

#3 (5) – Hunter X Hunter – (8.75/10)

Yes! We’re nearly at the best part of Hunter X Hunter. The past month was already amazing, but I am so pumped for what’s coming. The only blemish is that the exposition is really boring to sit through, because I already watched the series and all. Because of that there was one dull episode this month, but at the very least Gon and Killua redeemed themselves really well with the episode that followed that.

#2 (1) – Natsuyuki Rendezvous – (9.25/10)

What an ending! It all went perfect, and after all the build up, Natsuyuki Rendezvous closed off with a perfect ending that flowed like water. Every character got some extra depth, it was still wonderfully produced, and it left a wonderful taste behind. Without a doubt the best show of the Summer Season.

#1 (2) – Uchuu Kyoudai – (9.25/10)

The characters in Uchuu Kyoudai already were amazing. And here this month came and made them even better. I mean holy crap, the episodes in this month were just stunning in how much charm every character had, and on top of that the newly introduced characters were also all incredibly interesting to watch.

Posted on with categories: Eureka Seven Ao

As I said in my Kokoro Connect review: I don’t include dvd specials in my reviews, simply because it takes too long to wait for them. With Eureka Seven’s final two episodes scheduled in November though, I can wait. My memory will still be fresh. And with such a cliff-hanger, I really want to include those final two episodes, because they are promising to be awesome. YES! Renton finally made his appearance!

Beyond that, this episode also offered a lot of answers, which is quite good. Naru and Ao also finally got a chance to talk again, and overall this was very fitting as the episode before the big climax, especially considering how it has been building up to give a major role to Renton and Eureka in the final two episodes.

Finally, I want to comment a bit on why I ended up really liking this series, even though I also dislike other series that also pulled questionable plot twists. First of all I want to get things clear: there is no formula in rating anime. With these things, not explaining everything or pulling plotholes, it’s not like there is one rule that says if there are plotholes, it’s bad. Instead, I care all about the context in which it happens: does it have things to make up for it? For example, I pay much more attention to the things I don’t like in Sword Art Online because I dislike that it wastes its potential with its setting. With Eureka Seven Ao however, I am for one a very satisfied Eureka Seven fan, so it can pull off a bit more, and it all just works together. The plot twists that it keeps pulling are all true to its themes and allow it to get the best out of its characters and have them show themselves off.

As for the characters, I honestly don’t mind them, and actually quite like their charms. This episode for example had some good comedy, their chemistry is good and it was all well built up in the first half. It’s not like in Guilty Crown where the characters just changed their personalities for no other reason than raise drama. This is a line that may seem small on first sight, but it makes such a world of difference. Or at least it does to me.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Hunter X Hunter

Oh hell yeah. We’re nearly at the best part of Hunter X Hunter, and they look like they can actually pull it off. I’m going to pick this one up again. Whether I’ll keep blogging it for the remainder of the series entirely depends on how they end up handling the Greed Island arc, but the yorkshin arc is so awesome that it deserves to be blogged here.

With this I also want to wrap up the previous arcs a bit. The thing is, that we’re right now one year in. The animation for Hunter X Hunter has improved in the meantime: the animators are taking more and more risks beyond just shading Hisoka a lot, the soundtrack has gotten better as well, and the lesser voice acting is just something that has to be accepted. It’s not that the voice acting in this series was bad, in the 1999 series it was just that good.

However, I still believe that the 2011 series left a lot to be desired in the Hunter Exam arc. Unfortunately, back when I blogged it I kept dancing around the core issue with it. The core issue is something that bothers me with a lot of other shounen series: being boring in your first arc. You see, in the 1999 series, the creators actually added all those fillers, but those fillers were great in adding details to the characters, fleshing them out and making them fun to watch. because of that it was a really enjoyable standalone arc, even if the Yorkshin would not have been made.

The 2011 series on the other hand skipped all of these details, it saved its best tracks of the soundtrack for later, it waited with its really good animation until after the arc was finished, it didn’t bother looking much into the side characters at all. It was all bland, and instead what stood out about it apparently was the hints it provided for the future arcs. Those hints indeed were nice and all, but they don’t add anything to the Hunter Exam arc itself. And that’s for an arc that lasted 30 episodes. I mean, Full Metal Alchemist took half that time, and that just barely worked out. This lack of detail really made me worried for the future arcs of Hunter X Hunter, but thankfully these were ungrounded: they really managed to get the Yorkshin arc right!

This also is a major episode in the way that Gon and Killua finally have stopped being boring. Finally they also are done with all of that build-up (which is quite boring to watch if you already watched that before), but in this episode they really got to put their skills to the test, and it was an incredibly tense test at that. Here, it really shows how dangerous the spider troupe is, and how the two leads are only just children. They were completely hopeless and captured way too early, but I loved how well they avoided not getting killed instantly.

Right now, the spider troupe is also getting fleshed out really well. Seriously, these guys are pretty much my favorite evil organization in any shounen ever, and this is because of how well they combine with each other. There is no clear structure, like “you must beat my subordinate’s subordinate’s subordinate before you can fight me!”, but instead it’s a chaotic group that works really well in unison. Everyone has his or her own role, and even the ones with barely any airtime like Pakunoda and that guy in bandages have this prescence, like they matter. They really showed that at the end of this episode.

Also, that animation! Take those walking scenes and look at how smooth that animation was. That’s quite rare to do, and the sign that effort is being put in where to put the emphasis right.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews

So, I did not like Code Geass. The first season just shattered my suspense of disbelief and even throughout the second season it just wasn’t able to restore this, making it a chore to watch. So when another sequel was announced, I was mostly indifferent to it. And then it got announced that it would be directed by Kazuki Akane, my favorite director ever. Yeah, my opinion changed.

What I love about this guy is that he understands action like no other, and he manages to combine this astonishingly well with his storytelling. His stories are always awesome to watch, he knows how to flesh out settings really well. It’s just the total picture of everything that comes together so wonderfully in his series.

Now, Bokuko no Akito consists out of four movies, so this first movie was just a lot of build-up, so whether the characters and plot will work is still a bit hard to say at this point. I will however say that as a build-up movie this was really solid and it did everything that it was supposed to.

It still takes place in the setting of Code Geass, but on a completely different location. It’s still about a bit of an anti-hero, it still is about the military and it still is about the discrimination of Japanese people, but it removed all those ridiculous elements that the Code Geass TV-series had. There is also no school whatsoever, which also helps. The discrimination issues are also done much better than in the TV-series: the movie added some depth to these issues. In Europe, they’re turned into immigrants and these issues are fleshed out with a slight bit of subtlety that the TV-series completely lacked. All of this together really helped in making me take this series seriously again, something that at the end of the second season, I never would have expected.

And then there is the action: and it really is really well done. The animation is very crisp and clean. The CG stands out, but it’s really well used with intense movements that are all over the place, and are filled with energy. All action scenes just have this sense of power behind them, typical of Kazuki Akane’s action scenes, and they can only get better over the next bunch of movies. The action scenes are also quite grounded for an action series: the creators put thought in their use of explosives and used different ones depending on the situation, and they studied the human anatomy so that when someone is disarmed, it actually looks painful.

Most of my issues were with the characters. The main cast is fleshed out well, they’re likable and interesting, but there is this mindset in this series that I don’t like: the “young people rock adults suck”-mindset. Nearly everyone in this series over 25 years old is incompetent and badly portrayed. This show looks down on them and does not provide an adequate enough reason for it. I hope that this will get fixed somehow in the later movies, but I’m afraid that that will be quite hard to do.

Storytelling: 8/10 – Build-up, but solid build-up.
Characters: 7.5/10 – Some badly portrayed minor characters, but the main cast is solid for the next movies to use.
Production-Values: 8.5/10 – Excellent animation for the fight scenes. It’s a build-up movie, so it’s definitely saving the eye candy for later, but there is a lot for the eyes to admire.
Setting: 8.5/10 – They took the Code Geass setting and removed the ridiculous aspects. The result is quite interesting and it’s good to see this show take itself seriously this way.
Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews



Here is my policy on reviewing series that still have important DVD specials coming up: I do not include those DVD specials in these reviews. The reason for this is quite simple: I guess most of you know that my blogging style is very spontaneously: I write down whatever comes to my mind. Most of those DVD specials take months to arrive, some even half a year. At that point my memory of the series in question just isn’t sharp enough to write an accurate review. Kokoro Connect is a special series: it has four episodes scheduled on DVDs that tell its final arc, a procedure that I very much encourage, but this review does not take those into account, other than ignoring the unfinished ending. I’ll talk about it later when everything has finished.

Especially because Kokoro Connect created some very interesting memories during the past season. I mean, every season I watch a ton of bad romantic comedies when every series starts, to the point where I’ve become a bit too biased on some of the clichés and early warning signs. The victim of this was Kokoro Connect, which started off with half an episode of school girls whining and delivering bad sex jokes (just like so many other shows out there do). I completely wrote off this series, and then it turned out to be this genuine and insightful drama. Talk about a surprise here.

So yeah, give this show a chance if you want drama that takes a very deep and close look at its characters. The thing with Kokoro Connect is that it consists out of three arcs, each of them throwing the cast into a situation completely beyond their control, and designed so that they are forced some of their deepest issues. The first arc for example has the cast switch bodies. This brings out tons of interesting issues, both with it shedding a serious look on what it would be like to spend time as a different gender and delving into the characters and their problems.

The first arc is particularly good at this, mostly because of its incredibly sharp dialogue that cuts right to the chase. This sharpness is unfortunately lost on the later arcs, but these still are really good and chock full of character development. The weak link is the second arc in the middle, which just ends up too forced. It’s nothing but the characters yelling at each other, and the creators make too little use of it. It also breaks up the pacing a bit after how good the first arc was: you’d expect something of the same quality, but the end result just doesn’t match up.

What also made this such a surprise is the studio behind it: Silver Link. My opinion of this before this show started was as a collection of bad Shaft-wannabes. That definitely changed with this series: they stopped trying to adhere to their Shaft roots and instead try to go with their own style (albeit slightly inspired by K-On). The animation ends up surprisingly good. Perhaps not Hyouka-levels, but the attention to detail still is quite impressive. The voice acting also is quite good, and unlike any of Silver Link’s previous hammy series. They really did something different here, and while it suffered fierce competition this season in the drama department (Natsuyuki Rendezvous, Hyouka), it held its own and delivered a high school drama that actually managed to stand apart from the rest.

Storytelling: 8.5/10 – The dialogue at worst is pretty forced. At best however it’s incredibly sharp and insightful.
Characters: 8.5/10 – Excellent cast of characters, with issues that play off each other really well and lead to quite some interesting drama.
Production-Values: 8.5/10 – Good animation, though it does still look a tad generic.
Setting: 8/10 – Um yeah. Perhaps this gets explained in the final arc but things just… happen. It’s done believably, but this is one example of a setting that exists just for its characters to develop. Nothing wrong with that, but it also doesn’t get extra points for that.

Suggestions:
Natsuyuki Rendezvous
Asatte no Houkou
Hourou Musuko

Posted on 28 September 2012 with categories: Summer 2012 Kaleidoscope

Ah screw it, I’ve got so much to catch up to when I get back that I’m just going to combine all episodes that air in the last two weeks of the season into one post. A wrap-up will follow once I finish everything.

#1: Phi Brain – 50: Well, colour me surprised. That was actually really good. Seriously, this was a terrific conclusion that wraps everything up and delivered a really heart-warming conclusion for Freecell. The art was also much better than usual with the cell shaded detail. Congrats Phi Brain, you redeemed yourself there. – 6/8 (Awesome)

#2: Polar Bear Cafe – 26: So this was the episode to close off the first half of Polar Bear Cafe. Since episode 25 dealt with the past of Polar Bear and Grizzly, I was wondering how the creators would follow up with that in orderbring a good end to the past half year. Well, they did so with the best episode since the Penko episode. The second half of the episode in Grizzly’s Cafe had me completely in stitches. This show can really be brilliant when it wants to; I haven’t laughed this hard in months. – 6/8 (Awesome)

#3: Hunter X Hunter – 47: For this episode for the first time in quite a while I checked back on the same episodes in the 1999 series. I shouldn’t do that anymore. The differences again stood out way too much, and unfortunately, the thing is that the voice acting and animation still is better. I also now know why: the 2011 series has a lot of voice actors who keep doing one hammy voice over and over again, while this was more restrained and balanced in the 1999 series: the actors knew when to be subtle and when to raise their voice. Those differences unfortunately undermine the actual story and the fact that what happened in this episode was really awesome. – 5.5/8 (Excellent)

#4: Kokoro Connect – 12: And with this, the third arc already is better than the second one. It’s much more than jsut people yell at each other, and two members of the cast definitely showed some depth to their characters, and were able to overcome some of their weaknesses. Very well delivered, also making this show one of those series in which romance is something that can change. – 5.5/8 (Excellent)

#5: Phi Brain – 49: Finally! One episode before the end we finally get to see the meaning of Nonoha pulling her hair down; it’s about time! And really: this was an excellent episode with its focus on conflicting emotions and Freecell’s character. I’m very glad that he ended up the final villain here, because this would not have worked with that other guy still around. – 5.5/8 (Excellent)

#6: Saint Seiya Omega – 25: Whoa, I thought that this was going to be the climax. Instead this series makes three characters come to terms with their past. A pleasant surprise indeed, especially considering the charms with which it did it. The acting has really improved over the course of the series here and I’m beginning to like the cast more and more. That’s a sign of good character development, although I’d wish that this show cut some of its early episodes to make them not such a pain to sit through… – 5.5/8 (Excellent)

#7: Polar Bear Cafe – 25: We’re near the halfway point of the series (I found out about that very recently), and it shows. This episode shows a lot of new things about the cast. The first half was about the interests of the different characters, most notably Penguin and his painting hobbies (which were quite hilarious), the second pulled the adorable card by showing Polar Bear and Grizzly when they were young. – 5.5/8 (Excellent)

#8: Kokoro Connect – 11: So the third arc has started, and it has been revealed what the characters are going to have to suffer through next. And I have to say that this fits much more than the second arc. The second arc was too direct, and in the end it was hard to really use it well without descending into melodrama. Here however, the way in which everyone gets turned into kids has a much more indirect lead to drama. It brings up some great things about the past of the cast and it also forces the cast to look at what they were, and how they changed. That’s good, now keep it up! – 5/8 (Great)

#9: Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon – 24: The big climax in which the creators just go and throw as much action involving weird powers as possible. It was basically just one whole episode of fighting. It was quite entertaining, albeit that with this the meaning of the individual fights was lost a bit. Still, I have to admit that I enjoyed the baseball team and the chaos during the busiest part of the episode when a ton of different characters were involved. Also: Aoi’s contribution to the episode: threatening to actually do something. There’s your main character. – 4.5/8 (Good)

#10: Phi Brain – 48: L33t h4x0rz episode that made no bloody sense, but was fun. Background was solid, nice plot twists. Looks to be a fun ending, but how on earth did this get a third season? – 4.5/8 (Good)

#11: Saint Seiya Omega – 24: So after all the build-up of needing to find someone who masters the thunder element in order to break the final ruin… someone who has that conveniently shows up right at the exact moment. I mean come on, you could at least have shown the cast search a bit before running into her. It’s not like this show is hard-pressed for time or anything. After that though, some pretty good character development on Eden and Aria made up for this. – 4.5/8 (Good)

#11: Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon – 23: A very, very sentimental episode that was supposed to be the climax for two of the big romances in the series. It was nice I guess, but it could have been more. Overall, I’m not too impressed with how Horizon decided to handle its huge cast. It doesn’t come together quite as well and none of them really has much depth or stands out anymore, and that is quite a shame considering the wide variety in characters. – 4/8 (Nice)

#12: Hunter X Hunter – 48: Back to Gon and Killua again, a fairly dull episode, though it did have interesting information about appraising items… that I already watched before once. I remember again how these things also tended to break up the mood in the 1999 series. – 3.5/8 (Enjoyable)

#13: Tari Tari – 12: One thing that could have improved the past episodes is by having people other than the main characters motivated to keep the school festival going. Like what was stated before: a lot of clubs have passionate people who like what they’re doing. This sudden twist that they’re all too scared or unmotivated to do something… it doesn’t really work and feels rather forced. The stereotypically evil corporate businessman behind the whole plan didn’t really make things better. – 3.5/8 (Enjoyable)

#14: Tari Tari – 13: So it had it coming that the big climax of Tari Tari would be a musical singing number, and with this, we’ve finally gotten to the ending. Unfortunately though, the creators really rushed through that song there. Instead of taking its time and delivering something heartfelt, they turned into a montage! That’s now that I signed up for. It turned this whole ending into a rather cheesy climax, and the epilogue that showed how they all moved on was just too little to make up for that. Tari Tari definitely had potential, but unfortunately it didn’t really realize this. Have more guts dammit. – 3.5/8 (Enjoyable)

Posted on 27 September 2012 with categories: Manga Experiment

So, after years and years of people asking, I finally started to read some manga at the start of this summer season. I had the time for it, since it was quite a small season, and it seemed like a good moment to finally check up on the medium and explore my tastes. Thirteen weeks later, and I have to say that the experiment succeeded, and I’ve gotten warmed up to reading manga, and I’ve encountered quite a few gems that I’m really glad to have discovered.

So in this experiment, I found that I was most inclined to short manga that were easy to pick up and didn’t take ages to get somewhere. I most noticed this with the shoujo and josei genre, although there were also a number of gems in the seinen genre. It’s the type of stories that combine showing strong emotions with an intriguing and creative storyline that really did it for me.

Some pet peeves that I also found out is that I just cannot enjoy it when a character starts singing. It just feels awkward, and I can’t hear them at all. It may seem weird, but having watched anime for so long I’m just so used to things moving and there being music and audio to back it up that it just feels weird.

Another thing that rather annoyed me was something that a number of shoujo stories were rather guilty of: vague dialogues. It’s this attempt to be poetic by omitting entire sentences. this all makes the story very hard to follow and hard to reach in an attempt to be a bit poetic.Seinen stories on the other hand tended to suffer from being too dull: yeah they were nicely laid out and all, but the lack of emotions or poorly portrayed feelings didn’t catch my interest either.

Overall I am not completely sold on manga, and this blog won’t suddenly get renamed to Star Crossed Manga Blog, but I am going to keep up with the manga that caught my attention and read a bit here and there, because there are definitely awesome stories to be told there. I’m just a multimedia person who likes both visual animation, sound, music, storytelling and everything to come together. On the other hand though, the manga medium is so much easier to tell creative and unconventional storylines, and it’s also harder to screw up because there are fewer people involved in everything.

And finally, I’d like to rank the manga that caught my attention the most over the past season, based on how much I liked them. Perhaps there’s a good recommendation out there. Anyway, I’ve said this before, but next season will be huge, so I’m going to blog 12 series at once. Looking forward to it!

#9: Coelacanth

This is a very short mystery series with a lot of romance. It’s very shoujo, but at the same time it does have well written dialogue and it has quite a few interesting ideas, like a very cynical imaginary sheep that keeps bothering the lead female. The mystery unfolds slowly , but in the end it’s not really worth it in the end. The dialogue is very vague at times, making it hard to follow and because of that the build-up cannot really deliver what it wants to.

#8: With the Light – The Raising of an Autistic Child

With the Light tells the story of raising an autistic child, through a lot of different stages in the kid’s life. The perspective is really from the mother and the challenges she faces, and how to get her child accepted by the people around her. It takes so much work, and his manga’s strength is showing how she deals with them and conquers all this throughout the years (volume 1 already spans like five years). It’s a struggle, but it also shows that the payoff really is quite wonderful.

#7: The Music of Marie

What the Music of Marie did was quite interesting: from scratch, it created this really imaginative world and setting with its own customs, culture, habits, people, religion and folklore. The role of technology in this series is quite unique to watch, and its storyline is very deeply rooted in its own culture. The least interesting part is probably the romance, but the way in which it’s used allows for a lot of details to be able to fleshed out across the setting. The art is also a bit remarkable here: the characters themselves look quite plain and strangely drawn, but the different props, artifacts and backgrounds really are gorgeous and particularly imaginative.

#6: Wish

Wish is a short manga by Clamp, totalling four volumes and takes place in the same world as Kobato. The way it stands out, is how incredibly adorable it is, yet it’s also more than just that. The cast is very diverse and the slice of life is really well-balanced with the storytelling, leading to actually a very good cast emerging from this. The twist at the end is also really well-built up and really charming to watch, although there are a few too many gimmick characters around as well. It also has that singing bug that I mentioned above here.

#5: Shingeki no Kyojin

Shingeki no Kyojin. Oh boy. This one is a real shocker, and while it takes a few chapters to get going, it is just so consistently intense that it just had me in this intense state all throughout reading it. The way in which it portrays the despair of the characters during its fight scenes is much tenser than I could have imagined. The giant art is also something that you need to see for yourself. And then there are the plot twists. These things really make you think afterwards what the hell just happened.

#4: Hito Hitori Futari

Hito Hitori Futari was the first manga to catch my eye in this experiment, and it kept this all the way. It really drew me in where I found myself absorbed in continuing it for as long as possible, more than the other manga on this list in which I always found myself checking how many pages were still left. This is this really unique story about a guardian spirit being tasked to overlook the actual prime minister. Its mood is both really warm, and really cold at the same time, and I really like the way in which the author achieved this. On one hand the characters really sympathize with each other and the main couple fully accepts each other as they grow close together, and yet on the other hand there is so much darkness in this series and there are so many evil spirits present. The art is also just incredible. The facial expressions in particular are just gorgeously drawn.

#3: Hotel

For Hotel, this guy who names himself Boichi sat down with the intent to draw some standalone stories. At worst, these stories were gorgeous art experiments. At best however, holy crap what the hell did I just read. The tuna chapter was just delightful satire with an unbelievable amount of creativity put into it, on top of being very clever, while the pregnant girl story was just a complete mindfuck that was glorious in every single way. It’s all based on these really interesting thought experiments that do what you expect, only to go light-years further than that.

#2: A Lollipop or a Bullet

A Lollipop or a bullet was the kind of story that I hoped to find when starting this experiments. I managed to only find the first eight chapters of the story, but I was completely amazed at what it did there. In just eight chapters it created an amazing main character. Her inner monologues go deep, both into her own character as the character of the other main character. It’s also incredibly subtle: it nearly always just slightly hints at the really sad and pitiful things that happened, but never directly addresses them. The creators really made me sympathize with the cast and if you’re looking for something genuine, then by all means give this gem a chance. I also have a shout-out to the scanlators who brought this amazing series available for English audiences. Good luck with translating the final chapters, and I’ll definitely check them out as soon as possible.

#1: A Million-Pound Love

I am a huge fan of Himitsu ~ The Revelation and this is a collection of short stories from the same author. And really: they’ve got the same brilliance behind it. I mean, these were written by an incredibly talented writer. In Himitsu, what amazed me was how well it bit by bit revealed what was going on. That same style is present here. Bit by bit it develops its plot and it develops its characters like, majorly. It toys around with time and how characters can change in the span of a few years, and it just keeps building plot twist upon plot twist, yet making sure that everything fits once everything ends. On top of that, the art also rocks in how well it’s able to portray the emotions of the characters. I was really swept along with their emotions that just kept going from one scene to the other. There are times in which the twists themselves get a bit far-fetched (there is a lot of science fiction with creative liberties in this manga), but still: this is really is top-notch storytelling.

Posted on with categories: Manga Experiment

Coelacanth – Ch.06-08: This concludes the Coelacanth manga (yes, it’s quite a short mystery story). The culprit is revealed and everything comes to a climax quite nicely. I like how subtle the climax was and the way in which the author did the romance, but it also suffered from that vague dialogue that has been bothering me in a lot of other shoujo manga. Because of that this just jumps from one place to the other without much flow and becomes hard to read and follow.

Hito Hitori Futari – Ch.16-19: The prime minister is such an interesting character: he has this strange glow of ambition around him that the art manages to portray wonderfully. Chapter 19 also was a big surprise in how it brought Rihon back to her old life, leading to a very emotional scene. The art still is top-notch here by the way.

The Music of Marie Ch.07-08: This is where everything really starts going crazy after all of the build-up and world building of the previous chapters, and I must say that with the amount of meaning that was put into chapter 8, it definitely delivered a very intriguing cliff-hanger. It used all of the build-up quite well and took off using it as a jump-start, making great use of the two lead characters.

Shingeki no Kyojin – Ch.09-10: Oh my god, I nearly forgot how intense this series is to read, and this episode went even further. Perhaps the twists it delivered weren’t the most shocking, but the state of mind of the main character, and the despair and utter confusion he was in were incredibly well portrayed. I mean heck, waking up after all THAT. I’d be confused as heck too. Mikasa also rocked.

Posted on 26 September 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews, Phi Brain



So, Phi Brain. A show that baffled me for the past year more than any other series, and it did so in many ways. It was the source of many frustrations, but also many surprises. When the first season started it seemed like just an ordinary shounen series with very good characters. Then a second season got announced and things started. The thing is that the first season was very conclusive and didn’t really leave many plot threats behind. On top of that, it was all about Kaito and his history, and it really had this storyline that used its main cast at its best. So how on earth were they going to top that?

Well indeed, the second season didn’t turn out to be as good as the first, but it did so for complete different reasons than what I imagined. The creators actually came up with a new set of very good villains here. The charm of the first season, it surprisingly good characterization: it stayed here. There was cheese, Oh GOD, there was cheese, but it used this cheese really well to create memorable villains and actually ended up very heart-warming with a very good chemistry between all of the different members of the cast. The themes were great and it ended with a satisfying climax that really exceeded my expectations. So what went wrong?

Well, the balance is all over the place. The thing is that the stories of the first and second season are about equal in size, but the way in which they spend their time is very different. The first season had random stories: a first half of completely unrelated stories to flesh out the cast. In the second season however, every episode is important to the plot in a direct way. The problem however is that this show doesn’t have the material to fill 25 episodes. The result? Well, four episodes of solving the exact same puzzle over and over again. In a series that prides itself with its creative puzzles, that indeed is as fun as it sounds.

On top of that, the way in which this series manages its cast in this season is really bizarre and questionable. It all works out in the end, but oh boy, it has a lot of hurdles. Most importantly, the central focus of the plot is brainwashing. The entire cast of villains is brainwashed into acting weird and illogical. You do not want to know how long it takes for this to get properly fleshed out and some actual depth, because this series has spent nearly its entire airtime to get to that point. At the start the characters come off as shallow stupid and illogical bastards.

And then there is the great cast of characters of the first season, who honestly have trouble figuring out what to do in the sequel here. In one way it’s good, because the characters who did not have a focus in the first season can now really shine here (with the best example being Ana Gram), but it also is a bit of a shame to see once strong characters wander around slightly aimlessly and looking for things to do. Gammon especially suffered here, but also Nonoha is pretty bad. She keeps wanting to do something, and yet the creators hardly ever let her, despite hinting at how she still is important. Only near the end does that start to matter, and in the meantime she is just there for the token female to cook dinner.

Beyond that, the usual issues with Phi Brain still stand: when you think about it, it just makes no bloody sense. Especially the way in which this series seems to think that you can hack anything and do some mumbo jumbo in order to gather data are really bad if you start thinking about it even once. This show just has a story to tell and doesn’t care how illogical it gets, and yet it does this better than the likes of Horizon, because the story it does end up telling becomes pretty damn good when it wants to and is actually focused. I mean you can say a lot about Phi Brain, but it has a damn good cast of characters.

Storytelling: 7/10 – You call that balance?! Riddled with issues, way too long (we’re at 50 episodes now and a third season has been announced!), yet surprisingly focused and well built up.
Characters: 8.5/10 – The saving grace for this series. Very good and heart-warming all around. A bit too heavy on the cheese though.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Definitely not Sunrise’s dream team here, though it has its moments at the beginning and end where it looks really pretty.
Setting: 8.5/10 – I have to give points for this series: it took a setting that seemed impossible to make believable: people fight using puzzles and brainwash each other in order to evolve human kind. And it pulled it off. Sure it took a lot of trouble, but it did.

Suggestions:
The Law of Ueki
Spiral
Suteki Tantei Labyrinth

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Uta Koi



Anime is a commercial medium. It has to be catered in a way in order to attact sales, so concessions have to be made with the premises that get adapted. With that in mind, there sometimes just appear series that make me really glad that they got made, while avoiding all this. Uta Koi is one of these. It’s based on a manga that wasn’t even officially published at the beginning. It’s about freaking poets in the 10th century. No marketeer in their right mind would usually pick this up immediately, and yet the anime of Uta Koi has been made, showing that yes: we can still get things that aren’t catered in any way.

And really, Uta Koi is such a fascinating series. Very rarely we see series that also end up strengthening other completely unrelated series. This show attempts to show the mindset of famous poets as they wrote the various works that were used to compile the famous collection of 100 poems. Yes, the same poems that were used in Chihayafuru. This series gives such a wonderful background to all of the poems that appear in that series, adding even more depth to them. One episode in this series is also dedicated to the author of Genji Monogatari. It’s such a wonderful opportunity to see something about the people behind the stories for once, making this show without a doubt the most unique series of the entire year.

Now, as for the actual execution, there is also something interesting going on, plus a number of things that take a bit of time getting used to. Most notably the animation is quite bare-bones: the character-designs here are very intricate and detailed, but the downside of this is that they’re very hard to animate, and the budget for this series is not big at all. This leads to great drawings that move around really akwkwardly, and that sometimes don’t move at all. On the flipside, this series is wonderful in the audio department. Voice acting is top notch and the huge cast of characters are all very well delivered. The music also is really good and fits the romantic setting perfectly.

Now, Uta Koi is a collection of stories: every episode tells a different one, sometimes even two, so this show does not have much time to dedicate to each of its characters. Some of the characters end up forgettable this way, and it does have a tendency to get a bit cheesy in its worst stories, but there are also more than enough characters that make an impact. It’s not a series that thrives on hard-hitting storytelling, because the animation simply is not good enough for that, and a lot of the stories are strangely focused on forbidden relationships. It’s biggest strength is definitely how well it provides background.

But it’s nevertheless an excellent view to how life was in the upper classes in those days. Being a woman basically sucked, and this series has many stories dedicated to that, but also focuses on how these women found their inner strengths. Court politics also are very much present in here, not to mention that one episode in which it deliberately takes the piss out of everything it stands for. If you’re looking for something with historical depth and don’t mind a lot of awkwardness, then this is a fine choice.

Storytelling: 8.5/10 – Episodic, but very well laid out, moving though time across various poets.
Characters: 8/10 – Huge cast, so there are a number of forgettable characters, but also a bunch of great ones.
Production-Values: 8/10 – The animation is having a lot of trouble and looks awkward. The music and voice acting are brilliant though.
Setting: 9/10 – An utterly wonderful look at poetics of 1000 years ago and the people behind famous poems and stories.

Suggestions:
Chihayafuru
Genji Monogatari Sennenki
Aoi Bungaku

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  • Bam
    (Saturday, Oct 25. 2014 01:40 AM)
    @Vincent: Arguments by parts is a fallacy. There is one guy in ISIS who is fearless, so none of them should be scared of drones dealing death from above. There are more native denominations, tribes and villages then you can count m8.
  • Vincent
    (Saturday, Oct 25. 2014 01:34 AM)
    @Bam Yeah, while you’re at it, tell that to the Huron amd Iroquois and see how much they feared guns and cannons.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Oct 25. 2014 01:34 AM)
    @Vincent: No simply not true. The thing about what-if scenarios are that they are exercises in futility. Nobody can correctly predict the ramifications of giving the natives modern technology in the 16th century.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Oct 25. 2014 01:32 AM)
    @Vincent: go read the native accounts of the fall of Teocalli to see the devastating military effects as well as the psychological ones the canons had in the native/Spanish conflicts.
  • Vincent
    (Saturday, Oct 25. 2014 01:31 AM)
    Weapons were part of their defeat, but even if the Incas had semi-automatic bolt action rifles they still would’ve fallen apart because of the politics.
  • Vincent
    (Saturday, Oct 25. 2014 01:30 AM)
    @Bam Exactly. The politics and strategy were far more important. The weapons came last.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Oct 25. 2014 01:26 AM)
    The Inca’s lack of cooperation with their neighboring tribes, as well as their own affiliates, shows a lack of tactical sophistication which when combined with lack of modern medicine and weaponry amidst a economic, political and environmental upheaval led to their defeat by the hands of the conquistadors.
  • Vincent
    (Saturday, Oct 25. 2014 01:25 AM)
    @Bam Of course they’re part of it. They held weapons, so weapons were part of the war; no one argues that. But you are grossly overestimating their importance.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Oct 25. 2014 01:20 AM)
    You can use all kinds of acrobats to argue invalidly that weapons don’t matter in a war, at the end of the day that is simply not true. There is no single factor for their defeat but a multitude of different aspects, and advance weapons were one of them.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Oct 25. 2014 01:18 AM)
    @Vincent: “in a battle” and that’s your mistake right there. One battle does not determine the grand scale of the ethnic cleansing that took place in the region.

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