Posted on 29 November 2016 with categories: Aquarion Evol, Currently Watching:, Drifters

It looks to be a trend of drifters to follow a high action episode with a cooling down period. Though it does leave me with little to comment on. Scipio meeting Kanno and neither being able to understand each other lead to what may be one of the few jokes that actually hit with this series. Albeit one of the jokes that requires some knowledge of world war II to get. It certainly got a big smile from me though Kanno seems like the type of character who is perpetually pissed off. Meanwhile Hannibal has gone senile without Scipio around to keep him focused which makes me wonder why Murasaki didn’t pick him up from a earlier time in his life. Though considering how he reacts to Toyohisa it could be that his senile status is a just an act though for what purpose I couldn’t tell. The dwarves look to be next on this liberation campaign and I really wonder when it became commonplace that elves live in forests using bows and that Dwarfs are underground and are great metalworkers. In some ways Tolkien cursed the fantasy genre by giving it a standard template.

Abe no seimei brings up a certain concern I had regarding the drifters in that none of them seem to really care about the effect they are having in this world. I don’t quite agree on his assessment that Hitler was trying to help in his own way but considering that Hitler was after his time it safe to assume that Abe doesn’t know just what Hitler has done. Oda’s clearly lays out that he has plans that go beyond just beating the ends and Abe more or less has to go along with it as there really isn’t a better way to defeat the ends. However it’s clear that the Drifters and ends are altering this world beyond repair. The ends have followed with the old saying that if life gives you lemons….kill everything. Meanwhile the Drifters are introducing concepts much earlier than intended, with Hitler creating a second WWII germany and Oda pushing to create modern firearms which would throw the power scale all out of whack. Though we do have the issue that just because Butch and Sundance use guns, that does not mean they know how to make them.

They seem to be getting there though as Oda is making gunpowder and it seems the transvestite count will help with creating the primer later down the line. But man, Oda’s reaction when the cowboys started telling him about modern firearms and how he knew it would change everything about war. So both the heroes and the villains don’t actually care what happens to the world  and for that matter I am thinking that Murasaki and EASY don’t care much either. We don’t actually know why they started this game in the first place but considering the overly familiar approach EASY takes with Murasaki it could be that this game is just a matter of passing time for them. In truth perhaps the Ends are not the actual endgame of this series but instead the final bosses are these two. Who treat humans as mere playthings to entertain themselves.

Posted on 25 June 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews, Aquarion Evol



There is one director out there for which I’m ashamed to admit that I’m a huge tsundere: Shoji Kawamori. No, it’s not Shinbo, because with him there is a well distinct line between his good stuff and his bad stuff. With Kaawamori though, I both love and hate his works. I know his tropes, I know wow he’s a huge troll, and yet I nearly always end up blogging his series. And this time he’s working together with Mari Okada!

The result is a completely bizarre mecha-epic that is chock full of sexual context. I mean, romance and mecha have been done plenty of times before, but this show really takes it up to eleven: everything in this series is about romance: the mechas in this series can fuse by having three characters enter orgasm mode, it’s chock full of love triangles and subplots that all have their own storylines, and there is a ton of symbolism in this series, everything relating down to some sexual context in one way or the others. This series really is about men versus women and the tensions between them and it does all of this over the top.

The result is a really fun and often bizarre and cheesy series that definitely has plenty of entertainment value. It’s got a solid script so everything fits together very well, and the themes connect well with the characters, the plot and vice versa. the plot is well built up, but has a few issues: being incredibly cliched at times, and making no sense whatsoever. The cliches are often played straight with a very conscious purpose, but this does lead to a bunch of cringe-worthy been-there done-that episodes, along with a completely useless female lead who fails to do anything throughout the entire series. The plot has a few nice twists, but ultimately it’s just too stupid and corny to really stand out.

This show will most likely be remembered through some of its bizarre symbolism, though. This show can get completely crazy at times and it has some of the most wtf-inducing ways of introducing new powers or have characters learn something new. There was a slight danger of the creators turning this too much into a formula, but this was neatly avoided with a plot that did keep changing.

A guilty pleasure? I wouldn’t really call Aquarion that. Aquarion knows exactly what it is and what it isn’t. It’s a show that’s heaps of fun to watch as it explored the sparks and chemistry between men and women. And for this, its main plot had to be incredibly corny and it refuses to make any iota of sense. the result is a series that is overall very entertaining, but does have a number of lesser parts when the script is trying to make sure that the plot and characters actually remain strong enough to carry the series. This show has plenty of creativity in any case, but it definitely could have balanced this out a bit better.

Storytelling: 8/10 – Silly, corny, creative and strangely enough well built up and really fun to watch.
Characters: 7.5/10 – Mikono… even for a Shoji Kawamori female lead she is useless. This show excels in its chemistry, but the characters remain two-dimensional.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Tons and tons of eye candy, plus a godly soundtrack that is the best of the year so far.
Setting: 8,5/10 – Excels in its themes that are often completely bizarre.

Suggestions:
Basquash!
Ben-To
Cobra the Animation

Posted on with categories: AKB0048, Aquarion Evol

AKB0048 this week was all about challenging the suspense of disbelief. I mean, the show makes no sense, but that is no reason why it doesn’t have to worry about it. The thing with this episode wasn’t its realism, but rather how ridiculously incompetent it made the people from Des look, which is a pretty major issue for this series. They just barge in with tanks and fail to hit anything, they get outsmarted by a bunch of kids like it’s nothing. The kids who spoke two languages were a nice touch by the way.

Also, the difference between this series and Eureka Seven is HUGE. This stands out, because the two series do sortof touch upon the same themes. However, where Eureka Seven is all about protecting children while using them as a necessary evil, AKB0048 is completely reckless. They send out out girls who are barely able to stand and the competitive atmosphere is so bad that this seems to be the norm, because nobody finds this strange or peculiar.
Rating: * (Good)

So Mari Okada has been known for her completely screwed up endings and dark themes; just look at Lupin and AKB this season. Shoji Kawamori meanwhile loves trolling romance endings. But yeah, Aquarion Evol just had to end with a happy ending. This series is all about letting love sparkle. Any other type of ending would have made no sense. And indeed we here have an action-packed final episode that resolves the main romance, introduces a new one (Kagura and Zessica), resolves an eon-old romance. Oh, and Mix got her boobs back… why?

The two planets moving together was definitely reminiscent of Basquash and its huge moon. Beyond that this ending was fairly standard: definitely fun from start to finish, but the only special part was the music. That godly music definitely didn’t disappoint here. I do want to yell at Mikono, though. In the end, she really was a typical Kawamori female lead: never really doing anything and only being important by being the male lead’s crush and having mystical powers that happen to be central to the plot. This episode sealed the deal: she finally tried to actually use her powers (like what she should have done ages ago), and here Amata comes and ruins everything by going “you can’t change him by yourself! Let me help and protect you!”
Rating: *+ (Great)

Posted on 18 June 2012 with categories: AKB0048, Aquarion Evol

AKB0048‘s episode this week caught me off-guard with how good it was. I thought that the building up could continue for a while longer, but this episode very harshly returned to the theme of how competitive the idol business is, especially when the girls involved are still so young and pushed to practice almost non-stop.

What I especially liked is how this episode was about the relationships between the ones who made it and the ones who are still struggling to get a place as a successor. The main cast isn’t bothered by this yet because they are relatively new, but seeing the older generations being broken up like that due to the system of AKB really makes me wonder what the creators have in store for them later on in the series. The battle at the end of the episode worked really well because of that and I hope that that was a great hint for things to come.
Rating: *+ (Great)

Aquarion meanwhile had this one scene in which Amata had some flashbacks of Mikono. And Okada, Kawamori… who of you got the idea to make one of the first scenes for him to remember that one time in which he landed with his face in her crotch? The first half was incredibly sexually charged by the way, thanks to Andy and Mix having their own over the top finale.

The second half of the episode was standard penultimate episode build-up, although Mikage was nice enough to fill me in about what all happened in the first season of Aquarion. Things were pretty crazy, and seriously: I did not expect Fudo to be the reincarnation of Apollo, though that does make perfect sense on how he managed to stay alive for so long. The creators in any case made things very epic by moving an entire freaking planet for Mikage’s plans. So yes, he’s going to kill off everyone. At least this is a series where that completely fits, with the rebirth themes and all.
Rating: *+ (Great)

Posted on 11 June 2012 with categories: AKB0048, Aquarion Evol

One thing that I’ve noticed about a lot of Mari Okada’s anime original scripts: the one thing she has trouble with is being interesting while building up. Especially in the first halves of her longer series have these flashes of brilliance intermixed with dull slice of life. Take Hana-Saku Iroha’s long wring of random episodes, Aquarion’s boring romantic set-up in its first half, or even Kuroshitsuji II’s first four episodes that were nothing but random hi-jinks. We too are now on that point for AKB0048 unfortunately, but the end of this episode did remember to actually deliver.

And it did so with some very weird succession rules that showed even more what a strange organization this AKB0048 is. So everyone is set to become a succeeding member of one of the founding members of the AKB, and who gets to succeeds is decided by strange flying blobs based on very vague criteria, they are ruled by a strange shadowy figure who writes unnerving lyrics. And also: we’ve seen people talk plenty of times in this series about “graduating”, however nobody has actually explained what that entails to.
Rating: * (Good)

There was so much trolling going on in this episode of Aquarion. Where to start: Amata was consciously abandoned by his parents, causing him to have a bad childhood, Ah, and you finally see them again? Too bad! Seriously, can’t we ever make these people survive and have them take responsibility for what they did? Shoji Kawamori was all over this episode, but the most apparent really was the ending, in which the main source of the conflict turns out to e environmental destruction. I already found it strange that there was so little of that in this series.

It made for a very fun episode though, and I definitely enjoyed it. It’s definitely nice to have such over the top plot twists combined with interesting characters here. They’re not all interesting of course: Mikono YET AGAIN did absolutely nothing, but Zessica and Mikage have really grown on me, Kagura really got his time to shine here, and even Amata has gotten interesting to watch now that we’ve delved into his back-story.

Also, now that we’re near the end of the first half of 2012, I think I can say this confidently: Aquarion has the best soundtrack of the year so far. Yeah okay it was copied from the first Aquarion and all, but still: it blows all of the other soundtracks this year simply out of the water due to its massive size, sheer versatility and consistent epic tone.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 5 June 2012 with categories: AKB0048, Aquarion Evol

Aaand Mikono, you fail at being a romantic love interest for Aquarion Evol. This was supposed to be your chance: this episode delivered all of the background for this series. This was your chance to be relevant. But no, you’re just mentioned once in the entire story as a sort-of afterthought. Your role as a damsel in distress got upstaged by Zessica at the end of the episode, and beyond that the only thing you did was… feel sorry for Kagura.

Apart from that though: this was solid back-story. And to imagine that the big twist of the original Aquarion… was a dog. That was just as crazy. The commander really stole the show in this episode with his trolling, and Shrade also shined here. It’s completely camp and over the top, but good entertainment.

I do wonder, though: if the world split in two, and only men can survive in Vega… then what are they doing on Altair? Based on that same logic we should have an entire female cast.
Rating: *+ (Great)

AKB0048 was about that really strange phenomenon known as “hand shake events”, together with unreasonable fans. I again like the focus on the darker sides of being an idol (having young girls like that listen to death threats like that), but the creators did miss a few opportunities. I mean, this episode did focus on the good fans, but we saw little of the really creepy fans; there was only one scene of that: the obsessed grown man who kept clinging. That could be a hint for things to come though. What probably won’t be treated is the whole commercial farce that idols can be, since with this series, the characters actually have a justifiable reason to get as much exposure as possible.

Also those battles still make no sense!
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 28 May 2012 with categories: AKB0048, Aquarion Evol

Next week’s episode of Aquarion Evol: that will be the time for you to show yourself, Mikono. That will be the time where you need to show that you’re more than a damsel in distress. You have been guided, you have been trained, but so far… you haven’t really done anything. You are very close to stepping in the pit of the generic Kawamori female love interests, and that will be your time to either jump over it or go into a completely different direction. Zessica is about to do it, so you can do that too.

For the rest of this episode: this really was action-packed. Nice action, amazing soundtrack, it all was very entertaining, with the spotlights reserved for Shrade. The tension around this guy is actually much more interesting: he and Amata both have huge powers, but the difference between them is that he actually uses it well. Amata doesn’t know how to use his.
Rating: *+ (Great)

AKB and pandering. Of course you can have a cast with females. When it becomes a problem is when the creators start using moe and fanservice as an excuse for not trying, which unfortunately still happens way too often. AKB0048 doesn’t have that… or didn’t at least. I really began to fear that right the first episode after I decided to blog this show, the characters suddenly got a day off, we got a bath scene, a bunch of very stupid antics and this disturbing focus on pheromones.

So yeah, weakest episode of AKB0048 so far. But as it went on, I did notice something: the sheer amount of characters that the creators managed to stuff into just this episode. Heck, I believe that they actually succeeded in fleshing out the entire cast of named characters, giving everyone a bit of a moment or scene to show more about herself. That’s actually pretty impressive to balance well.

Also, this show doesn’t actively criticize, but some of the ideas in this show nearly seem like they were put in to subtly provoke this. I’m mostly referring to the pheromones talk, but especially that bizarre family that breeds idols to look like each other…
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 23 May 2012 with categories: AKB0048, Aquarion Evol

AKB0048… I…. give up…

I want to hate this show. I want to rant about what an incredibly stupid and pandering premise they settled with. But I can’t. I have no clue why, but this show has this amazing energy and charm. The idol shows did it again, even though I hate idols and J-pop. This is the umpth show that went “So you hate idols? Well, here is a really good anime about them, so there!” Some other examples of this are the current Natsuiro Kiseki and its use of idols to bind the cast together, but the past also was full of them: White Album? Unique romance with balls. Fancy Lala? Incredibly genuine character-study with an amazing ending. Full Moon wo Sagashite? It had heart-wrenching second half. And then there was Skip Beat which was hilarious, Key the Metal Idol was really well made, Symphony in August was really well done for one of the few non-fiction anime out there and Perfect Blue was just the perfect gritty look at the business. Sure there have been plenty of duds, but I’m still amazed at how much good and daring stuff the genre brought forth.

The only problem: how on earth am I going to blog this in this already incredibly busy season? the only thing I can come up with is blog it together with Aquarion Evol, since they have so much staff in common, being both helmed by two of the big trolls of anime out there: Shoji Kawamori and Mari Okada. The thing is: in these first four episodes went along as well as Aquarion Evol, if not better, and Aquarion did develop a few issues along the way which I don’t see coming as easily with AKB0048. It’s just unfair to prefer one over the other at one point. The individual entries will probably get a bit shorter than usual, but I do want to highlight both, because I’m enjoying them a lot.

AKB0048 is very genuine and despite its huge cast it actually keeps track of everyone. It’s very charming, but what surprised me also were some of the production issues so far: here is the thing: most of the main voice actresses in this series are members of the real AKB48 group (or whatever it’s called) and have very little experience, if any at all. And yet they are all doing a really good job at bringing their characters to life! They aren’t trying to stuff themselves into stereotypes either. That was one of my biggest beefs against that Idolm@ster show (or at least the first three episodes that I managed to last) and what prevented me from enjoying it unlike a lot of other people: everyone felt like a stereotype. Here instead the characters have a much better defined backstory, motivations and personalities that don’t need to be shoehorned into archetypes. And thank god there is no Kugimiya Rie either.

Also, I’m not sure because of who this was, but one of my beefs with Macross Frontier was that as soon as someone started singing outside a concert, it still felt like everything was taking place in a recording studio, with random instruments appearing from out of nowhere and all. Here though, when characters are singing for leisure, it really feels that way.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Now, as for this week’s episode of Aquarion Evol: bloody Nora, what a plot twist. I should have known from the couple of Mari Okada and Shouji Kawamori in a series that tries to be as over the top as possible: to think that there were points at which I actually tried to take the love triangle between Amata, Kagera and Mikono seriously. They’re the same person. Of course. With that, all makes sense. I like that though: it’s a satisfying twist after all that bloody build-up and this episode lead into it pretty well. That dream sequence in particular was awesome, and actually among my highlights of this series.

And Shoji Kawamori, did you again just pull the “it really looks like one of the main cast members died but h/she turns out to be fine in the end?” I’ve seen too many of your series to know where this is going, unfortunately. It would be an awesome twist if I were wrong, though, but the dead sign that Zessica is fine is that bit at the start of the episode where she talks to Mikage: whatever that was leading up to hasn’t happened yet.

Why I really liked this episode by the way also had to do with that this episode went back to the city of the first episode, and showed in a completely different light now that it’s destroyed and evacuated. Earlier I complained that this show didn’t do anything about continuity. I really have to take that back now. At this point, there are tons of scars in the landscape of events that happened in the past, from this destroyed cities to Andy’s filled up holes. One notable exception is that we still don’t know who the heck does the maintenance on the mechas in this series.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 16 May 2012 with categories: Aquarion Evol

Really Aquarion, this is more like it. Finally your plot is developing significantly. Ideally this episode should have been earlier, allowing for more time for all of the things to develop, but this was nevertheless glorious.

I am really surprised at Andy by the way. He started out as the typical best friend: the guy who is just there to support and never stands out. And here his subplot with Mix has actually been quite interesting. I feared that it’d turn into yet another kidnapping story, but the twist of reversing her gender was really used well here. The real main characters, Amata and Mikono meanwhile served in this arc as support characters: finding out what’s going on, helping others. That’s actually quite neat and I’m glad that unlike Macross Frontier, Shoji Kawamori actually allowed this. It allows for much more interesting character dynamics if the roles of these characters aren’t so constrained.

This episode also finally turned into that emotional roller-coaster that the first episodes had been promising. Just about every character acted differently in this episode and there was a wide variety of emotions all coming together. Finally! The most hilarious of which was Yunoha and her sudden out of place male speech patterns.

And that glorious music! Seriously, my opinion of Yoko Kanno increased significantly after listening to this soundtrack. Her best work still is Cowboy Bebop, but this really is a good contender for second place. The action in this episode also was better than usual, and the interesting thing is that this was not because of an increase in budget, but rather better directed fights and a better use of shots and colours. Especially that Andy scene was a very interesting visual idea.

And then there is Fudo with his donuts again. And the weird thing is that his symbolism all oddly makes sense. It’s completely silly, but rather than being pointless symbolism for the sake of having silly symbolism, it does fit in to the context. This show is weird.
Rating: **+ (Excellent+)

Posted on 7 May 2012 with categories: Aquarion Evol

Okay. This episode caught my attention.

Last week I noted that I had gotten bored with this series. After watching this episode and thinking a bit more about it, I’m able to explain a bit more accurately why that happened. It’s got a lot to do with the structure of this series, and mostly my expectation for the interesting stuff and development to arrive with the arrival of the second half. Instead, the development of this series came to a grinding halt with the random filler episodes. The problem was that no character really improved or was developed further. Everything came at a standstill, apart from Zessica of all people. And she was in no way an interesting character to watch, with her only character-trait being love triangle bait, resulting into that incredibly stupid wardrobe change of her.

Looking back, these episodes were wasted. These filler episodes with the bizarre bananas and burying: they should have been done earlier in the series. These episodes should have been used to build up the plot some more. What originally attracted me to this series was the bizarre romantic subtext, along with the promise of featuring boys versus girls. Instead of that we gradually saw this show turn into a standard love story. There are plenty of those series already, and done better. Looking back, this series really could have used these ideas more in its first two thirds.

With this however, things actually changed and became more interesting. Shrade finally did something again, we got a closer look at what that other world is, Amata’s story with his mother FINALLY got somewhere at the end of the episode. What’s more: Mikono actually did something on her own (was I the only one reminded of Star Driver at the scene where she left? It would be pretty interesting if she were to follow that example), there was this bizarre plot twist pulled in which… Mix was gender-swapped (O.o). Finally things got shaken up! Finally it uses its characters.

And then there is Zessica. When it first became clear what the creators were going for, I facepalmed at the thought of having all this build-up… leading to her brainwashed and a villain. Now that I think more about it though, this holds potential. At the very least she’s doing something. She still desperately needs another character-trait beyond liking Amata, but finally she’s more than love triangle bait for Amata and Mikono.
Rating: *+ (Great)

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