Posted on 9 October 2014 with categories: Currently Watching:, Some Quick First Impressions

Akatsuki no Yona

Short Synopsis: Our lead character is a young princess of an important country.
Impressions: I started out as a fan of the shoujo genre. That unfortunately changed after the entire genre suddenly deteriorated after a point. I’m not sure what happened, but at a certain point, all shoujo series just became dry, one-dimensional and bland; full of fanservice and pandering. Only once in a while you had something like Kamisama Hajimemashita, but even that in the end boiled down to a romantic comedy, instead of series that packed real punches like Ashita no Nadja, Glass Mask or Kaleido Star. With Akatsuki no Yona though, we finally have another seemingly good shoujo adventure. At the very least, it manages to push a lot of the right buttons in its opening episode: it starts off with a younger version of the lead character and shows a bit of character-development right from the start. The acting for once isn’t bone-dry but instead the characters are fun to watch. I especially want to give the creators props to the way they portrayed the female lead character: the way in which they delivered the energy that goes on inside the mind of a teenaged girl, including how she feels about love, was quite addictive. The show does look sloppy right from the start, which is why I fear that a lot of people won’t give it a chance, but that changes pretty quickly once you see it in action. Now: keep this up! Have a story to tell that fits the pacing of an anime, instead of goofing off for too long. This episode didn’t introduce all of the side-characters yet, but make them count.
Potential: 80%

Donten ni Warau

Short Synopsis: Our lead character ferries criminals during the Meiji-restoration.
Considering that this is only a shounen-series, I can see that there’s something good buried underneath. This episode itself was sloppy, but for a series of its genre I’ve seen much worse. The thing is dhat Donten ni Warau opened with an episode that had absolutely nothing to do with its plot. Or at the very least, the beginning of the episode and ending of the episode threw around hints of this epic storyline, and yet most of the episode here focused around the usual shounen brat acting on his own, and this really weird piece of comic relief in which a character who seemily had nothing to do just started cross-dressing for no reason. This was meant to be a character-building episode for the three main characters, but their problems are all pretty basic: you have an older brother who is really strong, a middle brother who wants to be acknowledged but who is weak (and who probably is the main character here), and the youngest brother who is just still a kid. You can make quite a few predictions based on this set-up. Where this show scores points is its setting: for the villains to be the samurai who are discontent with pretty much losing their identity after Japan’s westernization: that’s actually a very good base for a villain. It’s something different from those “I want to save the world so I need to destroy it first”-villains.
ED: SO many characters appear here who made no appearance whatsoever in this episode. The ED itself is also not bad either.
Potential: 35%

Posted on with categories: Gugure! Kokkuri-San, Parasyte, Shingeki no Bahamut, Some Quick First Impressions

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis

Short Synopsis: Our lead character is a bounty hunter.
Impressions: This show gets how to make a first episode, Keiichi Satou does a superb job in introducing us to the world of Mistarcia. The various character introductions are just as well done, and the 17th Century Spain-like setting really sets the tone for the anime. The anime borrows the styles of some of my favorite Westerns and swashbuckler films, like Ivanhoe, True Grit, Three Musketeers, and The Master of Ballantrae, which I cannot praise enough for having the balls to do. This episode showed me that the series knows how to borrow those styles correctly, and as a fan of 20th Century Westerns & swashbucklers myself, I appreciated the homage. On top of that, this series really knows that it’s an anime, and you can see a lot of personality in the characters which I thought that even some Westerns lacked. This episode had a lot of things happen in 20 minutes or so, but it knows how to pace itself relatively well, using that time in the most optimal manner to show as much personality in the characters as it possibly could.  Lastly, I feel like I have to mention the soundtrack, which is yet another great homage to my favorite Spanish films from the 50’s and 70’s.

ED: A nice listen.

Potential: 90%

Parasyte

Short Synopsis: Our lead character’s right hand becomes sentient
Impressions: Okay, the marketing department really did this anime injustice; the trailer for this show sucked and pretty much failed to garner much interest (aside from fans of the manga/people who pay attention to these things). However, who cares? The first episode was great, and despite the complaints pouring in from the raging idiots about the “modernized” character designs, the animation and art were very solid. Other than that, I just need to see that the creators know what they’re doing going forward. The episode had it’s problems, but at the same time, I saw clear efforts on the part of Kenichi Shimuzu  in making this story resonate with today’s audiences to the best of his budget. Both the pacing & character introductions were very well done, succeeding without having to put in much dialogue between the characters themselves-which ultimately allowed tons of things to happen in just one episode. It’s quite a shame, really, that this sub-genre of horror (with the exception being the works of Junji Ito) hasn’t been done very well since 95′, because it’s still pretty much uncharted territory at this point. Hell, there is real potential here.

OP: Not really my kind of song.

ED: Safe

Potential: 85%

 

Gugure! Kokkuri-san

Short Synopsis: Our lead character summons Kokkuri-san.
Impressions: Okay, so this show knows how to use the comedic formula, a pleasant surprise after being months without a decent comedy since Spring. Regardless, I  have to point out the fact that this appears to be one of those comedies that are VERY hit-or-miss. I’ve read about people on forums being put off by it’s deadpan humor and the shortage of background music-which I found rather appealing, because the anime quickly sets the tone for itself within the first half of the episode. Unlike the manga, which is rather episodic in nature as all 4koma tend to be, the anime manages to keep itself from appearing too episodic, smoothly transitioning between one deadpan comedy sequence to the next. So in that sense, I was relatively pleased; the episode is largely consistent in it’s humor. Really, the only faults I can find is that it is rather boring at times, and the jokes are occasionally under delivered, leaving these uncomfortable moments when I’m trying to figure out if I was supposed to have laughed or not . For what it is worth though, the episode is fairly solid, and it might turn out to be a relatively strong comedy…But I do worry about the jokes drying up, although that’s likely an unnecessary concern, seeing how there are much more characters yet to be introduced.

ED: Bit annoying, actually.

Potential: 70%

 

Cross Ange

Short Synopsis: Our lead character is yet another Princess.
Impressions: Of course, what a great impression to make, starting off your main character’s introduction with fan service. The episode starts off with a terrible cg battle, then takes a few steps back in the timeline to fully introduce our heroine, who is yet another princess. Frankly, after the Martian princess from Aldnoah Zero, I don’t think I can stomach yet another heroine who’s a princess. Basically, the main character is painfully uninteresting, and the “twist” is so damn stereotypical that I cannot take it seriously. Who are these people? How does Ange not figure out she cannot use magic until she’s f*king 16 years old?! The entire episode’s climax revolves around the fact that Ange realizes that she cannot use magic and is therefore a Norma (a person who cannot use magic), which is why a coupe even occurs. So for the last 16 years, she herself does not figure out that she cannot use magic, while a goddamn baby gets discovered to be a Norma in the middle of the street? The only positive aspect I can squeeze out this episode is that it had dragons in it for a few seconds. Nothing else.

OP: Embarrassingly bad

ED: Generic, nothing worth noting.

Potential: 20%

Posted on 30 May 2014 with categories: Mushishi

Now this was such a beautiful episode. We often see Mushi portrayed as parasites. In fact, they are pretty much based on the insects and viruses of their world. There probably are enough real viruses and insects living in the Mushishi world, but they just aren’t the focus of the series. Anyway, what they did here was highlight the duality of these little critters: they have both their positives and negatives. This episode really focused on the positives, while again not ignoring the negatives.

The woman who is cursed to keep all of the moisture inside her body. It killed a few people due to unfortunate circumstances (again, nobody is at fault here), however it also brings so much joy to the people when she arrives. What made this episode work so well is how well this series characterizes just about everyone: even the minor characters feel real. I mean, have you looked at the animation for this series? EVERYTHING IS SMOOTH AND LIFELIKE. I cannot recall a TV-series that has such consistently detailed animation for characters, and this series can pull it off because it’s not an action series: budget doesn’t need to be spent on elaborate action scenes, so instead it can go into the detail.

Mushishi really is a mature series like no other. Most series when they tell a story, resort to black and whites: there are clear heroes and clear villains, and even when the villains have reasons for their actions, their reasoning is often crazy in some way to the point where you can’t really hold a nuanced conversation with them. Here, everything has multiple sides to it, and it’s done in a really cool way.

And yeah, pretty much now that I’ve seen the preview of the upcoming summer season: I’m currently 95% sure that Mushishi is going to end up as the best show of 2014. There never has been a series that stood so far above all of the others in all other years that I’ve been blogging. It’s just consistently fantastic and detailed and in seven episodes I have yet to spot a weak moment. This show is just THAT special, and it justifies a second season really well: every episode continues to build upon the lore of the mushi, and we still see new stuff.

Posted on 22 May 2014 with categories: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure

This is where this arc gets weird. We’re still in adventure modus, however in these two episodes Jotaro not only meets some of the most bizarre Stand users, it’s also done in the most camp way possible. You can see a clear difference with the first two seasons of Jojo: there it was all about the ridiculous poses that the characters made. This season is all about poker faces: the most ridiculous things happening and the characters don’t even flinch.

Or take for example the point where, just after defeating a stand and being left in a small boat, one of the characters decides to comb his hair to get it in perfect model again. Jotaro gets stabbed in the shoulder by a giant fan and doesn’t even seem to feel it, or just lights up a cigarette or whatever (censoring THAT? Really?), or coming up with the most ridiculously cool plans like it’s nothing.

And then we have this giant horny ape that controls an entire container ship. Jojo is always about contrasts: combining two huge opposites with each other. This time it’s Jotaro’s pokerface with some completely outrageous stand users.

It’s such a monster of the week, however so far it’s done things right: it’s not boring yet and these two episodes definitely brought in some much-needed variety. I like the adventure part of this series a lot (you hardly see that in modern series anymore: an actual journey). Episode 07 also had some weird horror elements. Overall I liked it a lot.

Posted on 17 May 2014 with categories: Ping Pong

Episodes 05 and 06 are dedicated to character-development. It’s here where Ping Pong shows that it also knows its stuff in terms of storytelling; the develoment doesn’t start too early or too late, and these two episodes really added depth to all of the different characters, despite that there were no big matches.

I’m currently thinking of a character that it ignored… and I can’t seem to find one. Oh wait: the beach guy is the most shallow of the bunch. Apart from that, every character here is relatable (or as much as you can do with that with a guy who is supposed to be a human robot). Smile being a human robot as a main character has an interesting effect: the entire series revolves around him, but there are enough other things going on. I especially liked how Kong Wenge has completely changed now that he botched his goals of trying to get back to China as fast as possible. Ota became very sympathetic with the inclusion of his parents’ job (this guy is working hard for his future!)

The climax here was Peco though. Because of that it was the most cliched of the bunch, however I still found it offered some interesting perspectives. You don’t often see main characters with lots of talent developing into spoiled brats: that’s usually reserved for rivals, and even then those rivals usually always put in lots of effort. Peco however has always got everything handed to him, which succenly changed when everyone started practicing really hard and putting in effort. I’m not sure whether I understand the decision of the creators to make him have this sudden realization after a near-death experience though, though let’s see what they can do with that.

Posted on 12 May 2014 with categories: Mushishi

I have not forgotten about this show. Not at all. I just finished marathoning these four episodes, and holy cheeseballs on a stick! this is the best anime in years! This was everything I could have hoped for and blows just about everything else out of the water. Talk about raw, powerful storytelling.

I now know again why Mushishi is such a unique series. Sure, there have been similar series in the past, like Natsume Yuujinchou, telling about creatures who live alongside us with mythical powers, usually youkai or something in the like. Mushishi however, takes the concepts of Shinto, and goes further than any other show has done. In the eight years inbetween the first and second season, I have never encountered a series that did the supernatural as well as what we see here.

But even then, these four episodes were something else. Here we saw people’s arms getting eaten off, suffer from horrible frostbites, people disappearing into nothingness while still being alive, losing all their senses, chopping off heads and swapping them. It’s one thing to be brutal, but Mushishi does it without showing blood, it does it with such variety, and every single time it puts them in the middle of so many moral dilemmas. It goes in deep on the source, and shows how easily uneducated people can fall into these traps despite proper warnings. This show is nearly a medical thriller with its own set of rules.

And yet the beauty in each of these stories, is that you can’t completely blame the mushi. That also was the brilliance of the first season: the Mushi are also just living their lives, which just happens to sometimes clash with that of humans. This is driven forth even more here, with these mushi without a physical form who try desperately to escape that incredible loneliness.

And the presentation of these four episodes. It’s just perfect. Okay, perfect doesn’t exist… er… some frames showed characters with no mouths! There, critiism! Kidding aside: the animation is beautiful: the movement is slow, but you can really feel the characters. The background art is better than ever. The CG that is used is used consistently and only for the mushi, making them look stunning and out of this world, exactly what they are supposed to be.

The end of episode six: that was actually increidly beautiful how everything came together. It was never told that fire was meant to draw out the mushi in the tree, but when you saw it, everything just made sense. If there was ever an example of what I mean by storytelling, characters, animation, pacing and atmosphere all coming together in one moment, then that is a textbook example of how to do it. All stories were beautiful, but my highlight was episode 03. I cried okay! That’s the first time I cried at an anime in probably over a year!

Creators of anime! LOOK AT THIS! This is how you make an anime!

Posted on 8 May 2014 with categories: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure

Jojo really is not kind to its females. Every time a hint is even dropped to a girl kicking ass here, it comes with this weird plot-twist that undermines any fighting potential of them. In this arc, it’s the rule that says that your stand will kill you if youaren’t strong enough. And so, Joseph’s daughter has turned into a damsel in despair.

This show has a cute little habit that especially became apparent in this third arc: the way in which it points out the obvious. Like for example, a character does something that’s very simple and clear to understand, and then a bystander yells out in overwhelming astonishment literally what just happened for the audience. It gives this touch of cheese to the fights that in these three episodes were very enjoyable to watch.

So yes, enjoyable, but at the same time I also have to be critical: when it comes to the emotional punches delivered in the opening episodes, the third arc of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure so far is the least impressive. It packs less emotional power. As for why… my guess is that this comes down to a few different reasons.

This third arc tells the stories less with its gut, and more with its brains. It reminds me of the overly logical shounen series with ridiculously complicated powers that don’t really amount to anything. It’s not as bad here though, but the first two arcs showed characters who were just thrown into a situation they didn’t understand and were forced to figure out what happened though sheer manliness. Here, characters are already in complete control of their powers and the battles therefore end up revolving around people throwing trump cards around until one of them runs out. That’s also interesting, but different. This doesn’t show the raw emotional power of the first two arcs’ openings, so it will have to deliver in some other way down the line.

Posted on 6 May 2014 with categories: Ping Pong

The opening of Ping Pong wasn’t done in time, so the first two episodes showed a sortof montage as a placeholder. Now we know why, with episode 03 and 04. The creators actually got the single best animator currently in the business to oversee it: Shinya Ohira. This guy understands animation like no other. The opening is rough and messy, but the actual animation is incredibly detailed. He mostly does the animation for movies (which always are among the best-looking scenes), so it’s pretty major to see his work in another television series since Windy Tales and Paranoia Agent, even though it’s only the opening. It was worth it!

As for Ping Pong: what I really like about this series is that it really doesn’t plan to hold the viewer’s hands: usually with sports series there is some point at which you’d get a brief explanation of the sport the show is about, or that they spend a lot of dialogue explaining what’s going on. Nope, not here. This show really says everything with its animation. It’s clear that it doesn’t have the biggest budget, but even than it manages to hide that brilliantly with its direction: it makes use of many split screens for its movement, and unlike Shaft series it really puts the animation where it is really needed. My only complaint is the use of CG… in like one or two scenes in total.

Seriously the ping pong matches of episode 03 and 04 were riveting to watch. A bit hard to follow perhaps, but again: once you pay attention you can see exactly what the creators are trying to portray, and it also helps that the soundtrack is really good.

Beyond that though, Ping Pong is just a damn good character-study. All characters so far have shown multiple sides of themselves, and it’s episode four and the creators are already pushing for the character development, while other characters like Smile are static on purpose. Every character has his or her motivation, every major character is different, every character is analyzed, right from the start. Yeah, this show is great!

Posted on 18 April 2014 with categories: Ping Pong

Yes, I know that more people here were involved in making this series beyond Masaaki Yuasa. It’s written by the creator of Tekkon Kinkreet, Taiyo Mashimoto. That guy is awesome. And the combination between those two makes this series even better. Because here’s the thing: anime is significantly different from manga or light novels. Beyond telling a story, you have so much more to worry about: correctly animating characters, giving live to them through cuts and motions, using your music correctly, pacing the story right for the amount of episodes you’re given. Being good in one medium is no guarantee that you’re also good in the other. Consider what would have happened if Seiji Kishi or Shinbo got their hands on this series. Really, this would not have worked at all!

What makes Ping Pong amazing is not its story, but the way in which it’s told. The purpose of this episode was to slightly draw Tsukimoto out of the closet he kept building around himself (whether they’re also symbolizing THAT closet, I’m not sure yet, but even it if were the case that would not matter, because it’s part of his character). The way they do that is perfectly built up throughout this episode. And the animation just brings it out really well.

I feel the Osamu Dezaki-style cuts really work in this series, and finally there’s another guy who uses them. They’re a very interesting way of bringing these characters to life: the way in which the direction keeps showing different sides of the characters during the ping poing matches, ranging from simple shots to exaggerated, to flashbacks, to symbols. That’s how you bring characters to life. My only complaint is the use of CG: it stands out at times. Though thankfully they don’t use it in the important moments.

Posted on 17 April 2014 with categories: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure

We can never quite get rid of magic fights at a school, now can we, Jojo. Ah well, I forgive it this time, just due to how hilarious it looks seeing these ridiculously bulky men walk around pretending to be high school students. It’s just so over the top, and yet Jojo sets itself apart from the other show about bulky men by focusing on the details, like serving tea, attacking with ballpoint pens and involving plenty of people who don’t have special powers. This alternation between ridiculously strong and weak builds tension, and that’s something that Jojo already figured out in its first season, and most other shounen have quite a bit of trouble with.

Also, Jojo: 2 minutes of recap at the start of an episode is not cool. Right now this show is fine because the stuff it recaps is awesome, however it should take note that if this show were ever to go slightly downhill, that would become an extra nail in its coffin. I noticed it especially with Space Brothers.

But yeah, this episode was really excellent. I now remember again why I can’t watch another action series anymore. They all just pale in comparison to what this show has to offer. The action knows exactly how to elicit adrenaline. The build-up of tension is just perfect and they bring out energy perfectly. Action in other series just pales in comparison unless you get something really good like Shingeki no Kyojin, so I’m totally not considering good action a reason to watch a show anymore.

One strange thing that I did note about this episode was that the powers of the villain were a bit vague: first he was like “I have painting powers!”, but after that he switched over to body control, and then he had giant plasma beams. That’s not necessarily bad though. The big problem that a lot of shounen series make is that they give a lot of villains one gimmick and nothing else, while making the main character the most well-rounded of the bunch (heck, even Kill la Kill did that at times…). This guy just too has a bunch of different talents that he uses.

And speaking of the devil, I’m just going to say it: I’m enjoying these first two episodes much more than what I did with Kill la Kill…

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  • Bam
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 01:13 AM)
    @Ninja: yeah spending a week at Black Rock City with 100k people with all the madness that transpires is pretty exhausting. The thing about Burning Man is that given the open atmosphere of acceptance makes it much easier to socialoze since you can keep the ego bullshit to a minimal.
  • ninjarealist
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 12:58 AM)
    @Bam I just mean I don’t have the energy for that type of event any more. It just wears me out. That amount of constant socialization.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 09:15 PM)
    @Ninja: yeah pyro contraptions are a big hit there, but that’s a lofty project indeed.
    And I’m pretty sure you’re not that old, there’s a lot of 50-60 year olds there and they’re having a good time. If you’re not a camping person then yeah … it’s not gonna be easy for you, but given the atmosphere, the music, and the art I firmly believe it’s worth checking out at least once.
  • ninjarealist
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 06:18 PM)
    @Bam Ahhhh Burning Man. I had some friends from Indiana who were trying to get me to help them build an organ that shoots fire with each key-press for Burning Man. It sounded fun but I already feel too old for something like Burning Man.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:32 AM)
    @Ninja: no I met most of them at Burning Man.
  • ninjarealist
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:23 AM)
    @Bam I see I just figured that if you had a lot of friends in KY you must have lived in the region.
    @Friend Yeah or involved desserts like Palmiers or Croissants. I actually am pretty decent at making croissants from scratch but it’s a pain in the ass.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:21 AM)
    And that’s … The More You Know ;)
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:19 AM)
    “Iran” originally means “the land of the Aryans”. The European settlers of Aryan decent are correctly labeled Indo-European as they traveled from north of India across Iran and the Caucasus mountain range (hence the term Caucasian) and settled in pastural lands in Europe. Hence we are the original white people. Go figure.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:14 AM)
    @K-off: some good-looking corn there m8.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Oct 21. 2014 08:13 AM)
    @Ninja: No I’m Persian since I was originally born and raised in Tehran/Iran. I am mostly of Parthian decent with a quarter of Kurd in me. I have moved around the globe since I was 16 and now live in Sacramento California.

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