Posted on 26 March 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews, Shikabane Hime



The first season of Shikabane Hime was a very solid build-up, it had great horror, and may have had some pacing issue in the beginning, but it was one of the stories that gets better and better as it goes on. Shikabane Hime Kuro (the continuation), however promised to decline into the standard shounen clichés again, where the two lead characters form a romantic couple and battle a bunch of bad guys in a very overdone way. And in some ways, it did, but with so much style.

Shikabane Hime Kuro is an expert in managing expectations. From the beginning to the end, it sets different expectations for the viewer, only to deliver either something completely different, or exactly what it promised only five times better and more impressive. This leads to bizarre situations, like a couple of very crappy first episodes, followed by a string of awesomeness, followed by a Gainax-ending.

The biggest strength of this series is the cast of characters, though. Because it already had an entire season worth of build-up put into the lead characters, it now really has the chance to play with them and even then the development of the cast doesn’t stop. There’s hardly any episode wasted and both the side characters as the antagonists receive more than adequate attention to flesh out their characters well.

There are lots of nice themes that this series explores. While there are many elements that fall into the shounen clichés in this series, it also provides lots of new and fresh content, with an interesting storyline and plenty of effective mystery. Ouri and Makina are also far away from your typical shounen couple, for once, and a lot of attention in this series if focused on the two of them, trying understand each other, rather than simply one of them serving as a glorified damsel in distress.

But in the end, what it all comes down to is the following: Shikabane Hime is a terrific action-series, that knows exactly what it is. While the first few episodes of Kuro will disappoint, it quickly picks up with a string of gripping action scenes, with some of Gainax’ trademark animation (though used in moderation this time) and a rocking soundtrack, combined with a strong cast and imaginative plot twists that are going to keep you busy throughout the entire rest of the series.

I’m not exactly a fan of shounen series, but I love it when they’re done well, and that’s exactly what Shikabane Hime is. It’s found a very nice combination between style and substance here, and Gainax and Feel did a really good job at bringing the manga alive. It’s also interesting how for a manga adaptation, the creators managed to fit the stories perfectly into 25 episodes: there are hardly any signs of rushed scenes, major plotholes or pacing issues. Exactly what a good manga-adaptation should be.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on with categories: Shikabane Hime



Short Synopsis: The finale of Shikabane Hime
Episode Rating: ?/10 (wut?)
Uhm… yeah. This is without a doubt one of the more original endings I have ever seen, but… what?

But yeah, this is what you get when you combine Gainax with the director of Gilgamesh: both infamous for their unconventional endings. Here I was, expecting a really action-packed ending… and most of the bad guys die within five minutes, all the major threads left hanging are solved, nearly everything is carefully wrapped up into a rather quiet but rather anticlimactic epilogue… and the series seriously ends in the middle of a big fight between Makina and Hokuto. Has that ever been done before?

Still, I like the approach that the creators took. It’s definitely going to make this series memorable to me; it’s something I totally didn’t see coming, it’s anticlimactic how easy things really were in this final episode, and yet it strangely worked. In a way, we really didn’t need to know whether Makina or Hokuto would win the fight. That’s just the same predictable shounen crap, but in the meantime the creators did have enough time to explore on the main themes of the show. It’s interesting how despite all of the warnings, Ouri still sees Makina as a human being, but he never really fell in love with her and I think that that separates himself from Akasha and Sougi, who both fell in love with their Shikabane Hime: he never could fall in love with Makina because of Keisei’s influence and instead they grew more to become good friends.

I’m a bit disappointed that the final two seven stars didn’t receive their background, but at least the two of them aren’t complete paper bags, and the bit of depth that they received in this episode was appreciated. The old guy basically was someone who wanted to live desperately (it would have been interesting, though: why would he return as a Shikabane when he died at such an old age? And without a grudge as well…), while the bug guy simply was obsessed with Hokuto, and the reason why he acted so cruel through the majority of the series was because he didn’t really care about anyone other than his beloved Hokuto.

Overall, though, it’s definitely been a fun and awesome series. I had some doubts when I started blogging this show, but I’m glad that I did in the end, because it’s been a lot of fun praising (and yelling at the constant fanservice in) this series. While Gainax isn’t one of my favourite production companies, they really hit the mark this time with a very effective shounen series.

Posted on 19 March 2009 with categories: Shikabane Hime



Short Synopsis: Akasha finally reveals why he’s doing the things he did.
Episode Rating: 8,5/10 (Awesome)
Seriously, is there no end to this series’ awesomeness? While the second season started out with a bunch of really bad and questionable episodes, it picked itself up so well after that, and delivered one hit after the other. I really must thank this series for giving me back my faith in shounen fighting series. Ever since the Law of Ueki, I’ve found myself disappointed by these series so many times, but this series really has been everything a good shounen series should be. This is exactly what I was hoping for when I found out that the director of Gilgamesh was behind it. Love it or hate it, but it had lots of interesting and imaginative stuff, and Shikabane Hime is the same: it knows exactly how to deal with its viewers’ expectations, and go completely beyond that.

And really, to think that this series is a manga adaptation. I really wouldn’t have suspected this: Ever since episode seven of the first season, there hasn’t been any filler, there are no wasted episodes, there are no pacing issues, and it looks like everything is going to be solved in the next episode. It may be that the story of the manga fits the 25 episode format exactly, but what’s more like is that the creators tweaked the storyline a bit so that it would fit into this time-frame. Seriously, a lot of series should try to follow this show’s example.

And this episode yet again continued this show’s string of awesomeness. We were promised Akasha’s background, but we got so much more. From the BEGINNING, he was planning on betraying the seven stars and use the strange cube to take control over Hokuto. The reason why he looked like such a weakling for the past number of episodes was because he simply let himself get pushed around, since at the time he couldn’t risk it to go against the bug guy. His duty was to protect Hokuto, and since the previous episode pretty much distracted him from this task, he grabbed his chance.

His background also rocked beyond belief. And while it was the kind of “I lost my loved one so I want revenge!”, there is so much more added. He actually was the victim of something that happens to every monk who makes his Shikabane kill 108 corpses. When that happens, they simply turn back into an ordinary Shikabane, just as if their contractor was killed. His Shikabane Hime also was his former girlfriend, fully tying this into the theme of “Shikabane Hime aren’t people, they’re a bunch of dead bodies” that has been explored by both Ouri and Sougi in detail, and continues to build further upon it.

So yeah, right now you can pretty much consider me a fan of the director, Masahiko Murata. Both Shikabane Hime and Gilgamesh were simply awesome, and I’m getting more and more interested in his other works and see what he can do. This guy really has talent, and is not afraid to use it.

In any case, only one episode left, and it really is promising to be yet another action-packed one. The big difference is that the first season really was building up to that big climax of its, while most of the build-up at this point has already been used. Let’s see whether the creators can give us one final surprise with this series.

Posted on 12 March 2009 with categories: Shikabane Hime



Short Synopsis: Hokuto, Akasha and whatshisname (the bug guy) carry out their plan to destroy the Kougonshuu (that’s what it was called, right?)
Episode Rating: 8,5/10 (Awesome)
Great to see that even though the finale is near, this series has yet to show any signs of weakness. That’s what I like to see, and I really have to say that Shikabane Hime grew into one of the best shounen series out there. I’m still not sure who exactly was responsible for it: the director of Gilgamesh, Gainax or feel (although the latter seems unlikely, looking at its past record), or a combination of the three of them, but any fears I had over the second season were proven wrong, and it’s the definite proof that you can have a few overdone clichés here and there as long as the execution is right. Yes, you can put a bunch of teenagers in the middle of adult conflicts, but if you want to do that you really have to know what you’re doing. ^^;

What surprised me in this episode though was that there was no background on the final two members of the seven stars, and most of it was building up, meaning that their stories are saved for the final two episodes. I remember when Kekkaishi did this, it felt really out of place. It was like… “Muaha, the climax is about to begin… but first let me tell you about my past”. Still, Shikabane Hime might actually pull it off. Nearly all of the backgrounds of the seven stars have been huge revelations and juicy plot twists. I can see how they can be used to spice up these final two episodes, and I’m actually quite eager to find out about them.

I also liked how this finale has a deeper meaning than “all hell breaks loose so let’s just send a wave of zombies to make this even more apparent”. Because there now are so many shikabane out there, it was going to be pretty easy for all of the Shikabane Hime to gather their 108 kills needed in order to go to heaven. Since they think just like regular people, it adds an interesting dimension of staying versus saying goodbye while saving those around you and going to heaven in the process.

And I guess that even though the two remaining seven stars didn’t get their background, Akasha did. His final revelation is saved for the final two episodes (either that or I missed a very important part), but we now know that his Shikabane Hime managed to slay 108 Shikabane, and then something really bad happened. Is this the case for every single Shikabane Hime (in that case a lot of monks must have been screwed that way), or did something happen between the two of them involving the Kougonshuu?

And finally, Hokuto seemed more like a human than she ever did in this episode. Was this all because of her fight with Makina? Did she find her reason to continue to exist even though she lacks a grudge this way? I also like how the creators aren’t trying to make her into a sympathetic villain like most series out there. Sure, her past was fucked up, but she never tries to put herself into the victim’s seat.

And on a really final note: that background song rocked. Choirs FTW!

Posted on 6 March 2009 with categories: Shikabane Hime



Short Synopsis: Finally! The cat!
Episode Rating: 9/10 (fantastic)
Amazing! The second season just continues to get better and better! I know I have ranted a lot about the second season so far, but the past few episodes have been utterly incredible! This could very well turn into my favourite Gainax production at this pace. This is EXACTLY what a good shounen series needs to be!

And seriously, if this episode wasn’t horror, then I don’t know anymore. We have a slaughtered group of children, a frog shikabane who brutally eats the corpses of these children, yet another group of children who are nearly crushed by a bunch of exploding cars, Hokuto who brutally kills everyone within her sight by squeezing them to death. Oh my god… you can really see that the creators were in their element when they made this episode.

So in the end, it turns out that Hokuto was simply someone bred to be sacrificed to the gods. That’s why she turned into a shikabane without any grudges, making her a simple killing machine. Makina’s ancestors were the one who killed her, and that’s why she was turned into a Shikabane: to give her a grudge. In the meantime, the cat turns out to be the shikabane of every kid who was slaughtered by Ouri’s mother. It was interesting how they saw him as a companion, rather than someone killed them in the case of Hizuchi.

Those revelations also came surprisingly early: three episodes left and most of the mysteries are gone now. The only thing that I still want to know is the background behind the final two members of the Seven Stars. In the meantime, the end of this episode definitely made all hell break loose. Usually I’d raise an eyebrow again, since this means that the show is going to turn into an even bigger fight-fest than it already was, but this series has surprised me enough times already. The creators really seem to plan to go all out with the show’s finale, and I can’t wait to find out what they have in store!

Posted on 26 February 2009 with categories: Shikabane Hime



Short Synopsis: The seven stars put Makina and Hokuto in one room. Fighting ensues.
Episode Rating: 8/10 (Excellent)
I’m still amazed at this series. I keep having these fears, for the huge amount of pitfalls that this series can fill into. And here it comes, and proves me wrong time and time again. The characters just keep saving this series whenever it’s about to fall apart. When boob-sama first appeared, I feared that she was just going to prove to be a source of annoyance, in the same veins of Saji and Louise in Gundam 00, and how she’d come back as a Shikabane Hime in order to form Ouri’s harem when she ‘died’. And here it turns out that she couldn’t be saved, and actually died for real with a pretty impressive finish. In the last episode, I remember noting how the rest of the seven stars looked like they were going to simply fight Makina in standard shounen fare, and this episode comes and it continues to provide very interesting back-stories for these guys. Heck, even the simple bash-fest between Makina and Hokuto turned out to be awesome somehow. I really didn’t see this coming when the second season started, but at this point, this series can hardly do anything wrong for me anymore. That’s how much I’m already caught up in this series’ pace.

So as it turns out, there’s a whole lot more to that simple flashback scene of Keisei and his former comrades than just them being at the same spot at the same time. It turns out to be a very important scene, having to do with Ouri’s origins. I didn’t understand it completely, but there seems to have been a shikabane that collected children, presumably this was Ouri’s mother. In their attempts to rescue them, Keisei and the others failed, and every child except for Ouri got killed off, and Ouri was brought to the orphanage. Also, did I understand this correctly and did Ouri’s mother turn into the cat? In any case, the biggest revelation in this episode was that one of these dead children was Hizuchi.

What I now want to know is why it’s so important for the Seven Stars to have Hokuto fight Makina, though this will probably get clearer once the creators start on her background.

It’s only a pity that the animation doesn’t feel as rich as in the first season. While it’s still much more than a bunch of still frames, and I can’t exactly put my finger to the big difference. I guess that the animation in the second season feels more standard and less inspired than what we saw in the first, if that makes any sense.

Posted on 12 February 2009 with categories: Shikabane Hime



Short Synopsis: Ouri vs. Boob-sama and Makina vs. the balloon… thing.
Episode Rating: 8/10 (Excellent)
Seriously, this show keeps surprising me. I thought that the Boob-sama story would be plain annoying, and Ouri’s female classmate who appeared from out of nowhere and started acting completely different from her usual character only contributed to that fear, not to mention that she opened up her shirt for no good reason either. Still, this yet again was a really good episode.

Mostly, this was because of the balloon Shikabane. The shounen-roots of this series may have a few serious disadvantages, but this is one of the few shounen-series that so far has yet fallen into one of the pitfalls that killed most of the series of the genre. And this series also has the big strength of the good shounen series: they created some really interesting villains with very imaginative powers. The seven stars really are formidable opponents that are fun to watch, and the balloon thing is the best example of that when this episode reveals that it’s just a little girl with a bunch of balloons, who died together with her family on an amusement park. Nice! The theme-park fight-scene was quite awesome to watch.

It seems that the seven stars are indeed after the destruction of the Hougonshuu, and for some reason Hokuto’s big enemy is among them. Right now, I wonder what the creators have in store with these guys. My biggest fear right now is that Hokuto seems a bit too much like your overpowered evil overlord. The balloon shikabane was so much fun because she used mind games and all that stuff in order to win, though Hokuto seems much more like your typical power monster.

Also, the big question for the next episode: is Boob-sama going to return as a Shikabane Hime or not?

Posted on 5 February 2009 with categories: Shikabane Hime



Short Synopsis: Ouri vs. Keisei & Keisei & Keisei & Keisei & etc.
Episode Rating: 8/10 (Excellent)
I’m really glad that my fears that the extra shounen roots would ruin the second season proved to be unnecessary, because the creators have found more than enough inspiration to keep this series interesting and exciting, so in the end the only big problem of the second season is simply the lack of subtlety in the fanservice.

This episode eliminates one of the seven stars, and what I especially liked was that the creators managed to squeeze in a bit of background about her before she died. Her death also had quite a bit of impact due to some particularly nice voice acting. Next episode should prove to be even more fun, because finally “boob”-sama is going to play a big role. It’s very nice: the past few episodes have so emphasized that shikabane aren’t humans, and because of that Ouri had no problems with killing all of the fake Keiseis. But here we have the case where a living being has been possessed by the balloon guy (who looked really scary this episode, by the way). Now that’s going even further. On top of that, it’s revealed that Akira and Mabuhiro are planning to kill the head priest, so there’s plenty of fun stuff left for this series.

The only thing that’s a shame about this second season apart from the fanservice is that the animation has also become much worse. It’s still good enough, but nowhere near as dynamic as the animation of the first season. That second episode got me hungry, but apart from the visual effects most of the eye candy isn’t as impressive anymore. Still, in order to make up for it, the creators decided to focus much more on the music. It’s strange, most of the tracks were also there in the first season, but somehow they sound even better right now.

Posted on 29 January 2009 with categories: Shikabane Hime



Short Synopsis: Sougi takes care of his old friend, while the Seven Stars pull a particularly nasty trick on Makina.
Episode Rating: 8/10 (8,5/10 for the first half)
Ah, who cares about the stupid fanservice! The second season rocks!

I’m really surprised. When the fanservice started coming with buckets at the time, I really thought that the series had hit its height in the first season, and the second season was just meant to cash in a bit more on the DVD sales. Still, Sougi and Itsuki’s past was rock-solid, and the definite proof that the creators haven’t lost their touch yet. Especially the conclusion to their story was fantastic. It’s impressive how easily Sougi was able to kill his once best friend. The guy has really grown from the teenager he once was.

Their arc really signified the message in this show, that Shikabane aren’t the same as people. Even though they’re a bunch of cute girls, they remain a bunch of non-rotting corpses. At the end, where Itsuki also started looking more like a zombie, and asked Sougi how she did her job, Sougi was able to face her with a straight face and told her that she did well, and he was able to do this because he didn’t see her as an ordinary cute girl.

In the second half of this episode, Makina and Ouri finally have the chance to talk and sort out their differences. It turns out that Makina killed Keisei in the end, to prevent his body from turning into a Shikabane, and that’s why she refused to take Ouri as his replacement. The next episode with the fight against the army of Keisei’s should also prove to be interesting, as it’ll finally show Ouri and Makina fighting together.

The question now remains where this show will go from now. will it, despite my praises turn into standard shounen fare now that Ouri and Makina have settled their differences, or will the creators be able to keep this level of character-development up. I’m just a bit worried about “boob”-san, who has just arrived at the mountains. She was one of the more annoying characters in the first season, without any real point to her, so I guess that the creators were saving her for the second season. But what could she possibly add?

Posted on 22 January 2009 with categories: Shikabane Hime



Short Synopsis: Sougi and Itsuki tell about their background.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8/10 (Excellent)
Now this is more like it! This is exactly the reason why I came to like the first season so much, and I’m glad to see that the second season is going to be more than a weak sequel of the first. Sure, this episode was much about a side-plot of this series, but a bit of background never hurts, and this episode definitely shows that the creators haven’t lost their touch, after the rather disastrous fanservice-problem of the previous three episodes.

This episode was all about Sougi and Itsuki, who in their early days looked suspiciously like your average shounen-lead-pair: a dorky male lead gets contacted by a female with power, in this case because Itsuki hit a truck and happened to form a contract with Sougi before she turned into a berserking Shikabane, complete with the introduction-scene at school (again…).

But thankfully there was much more to that episode than just that. While Itsuki wasn’t as tormented as Makina by revenge, the two of them had their own problem. Itsuki was practically a corpse, and yet Sougi saw her as a regular girl, without any special powers. This caused him the huge scars that he has on his body, simply because he wanted to protect Itsuki from getting hurt, even though she could simply regenerate her wounds, while he couldn’t.

So, yes. The fanservice was definitely a problem, but this series does know what it is: entertainment. As much as I’ve ranted on these past three episodes, they never failed to entertain me, and especially this episode was full of adrenaline, even though there were plenty of quiet parts. If the creators can keep the same mood for the rest of the series, with Makina’s storyline and all, then I’ll call this second season a success.

The next episode should be either fun or a complete disaster: Makina is being transported by a group of monks, without Ouri, and suddenly one of the seven stars attacks, impersonating Keisei. Let’s see where that one goes.

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  • SuperMario
    (Monday, Jun 27. 2016 07:15 AM)
    Also it’s nice to see there was heated arguments on EVA even before I start to do any post review. The way I see it thou certain films/ series are classic/ influential for a reason, if they are brilliant I certainly can still see its sparks. Like I can still amazed of Potemkin Battleship on its montahe editing, or It Happens one night fot its influential on romantic comedy. So I really look forward to see how I feel about EVA hahaa
  • SuperMario
    (Monday, Jun 27. 2016 06:52 AM)
    Jezz, I was almost certain that I would cover Orange, mainly because I never have thought it would be on top of the polls. Anw, it’s good to see how Aidan cover it as it appears I’m a much more easy-marker than Aidan
  • Bam
    (Monday, Jun 27. 2016 05:40 AM)
    There is a hipster movement of contrarianism, that they just like to hate on whatever’s popular and deemed kinda mainstream. I get defensive when they shit on classics like Akira, Berserk and Ghost in The Shell. I see that wasn’t the case here. Anybody can sincerely dislike Anything; that’s fine.
  • Bam
    (Monday, Jun 27. 2016 05:31 AM)
    I see your point too. We can certainly take the stance of judging a thing by its own merit, unobstructed by social influences and constrains of time. Yet even at that Evangelion is a fairly slick piece of science fiction, and an interesting watch. At worst it’s boring and contrived, but that’s harmless. Never really fair to call it shit.
  • Bam
    (Monday, Jun 27. 2016 05:20 AM)
    @Aidan: looking back soberly I did come back a little too heated. That’s uncalled for and I’m sorry for that. I usually don’t lash out of unrelated daily stress, but there are mistakes here and there.
  • mamamoo
    (Monday, Jun 27. 2016 03:22 AM)
    @Aidan hahaha can’t wait for the episode reviews for Orange. It’s gonna really test you.
  • AidanAK47
    (Monday, Jun 27. 2016 02:58 AM)
    Look I knew how this would end before it began. We have done this already and neither of us are changing our stance. K-Off laid out things perfectly with his response so I see no reason to elaborate. Only reason I jumped in was because you brought Fate into it and if that was the bait then congrats, you won. I see no reason to continue the farce with no compromise in sight.
    In other words, need sleep. Goodnight.
  • AidanAK47
    (Monday, Jun 27. 2016 02:53 AM)
    @Bam,”I never said the problems it has gets erased by its early release or cultural significance”
    Neither did I. I said you are hand waving it’s problems by stating so, which you are.
  • AidanAK47
    (Monday, Jun 27. 2016 02:32 AM)
    …And orange is still top of the poll…ugh. Seems like this is going to be torture for me. Kiznaiver was already trying my patience with those speeches but if Orange is even worse…oh boy…
  • mamamoo
    (Monday, Jun 27. 2016 01:35 AM)
    Anyways I’m sure an emotionally manipulating soundtrack will make the anime a bit better :)

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Chinese Animation Guide – Part 3: Haoliners inputs

This part we explore one Chinese animation studio’s works. I choose Haoliners partly because they are independent studio, and their works are not hard to find. Just established in 2013, Haoliners is an indie studio but gathered more reputation in the last few years in their homeland. My experience with them through those titles below […]

Cover

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress OST Review

This will be the first time in my anime blogging career that I have ever done one of these anime OST review. It should be known that I have a complete bias for Hiroyuki Sawano as he has become one of the biggest composer for anime in recent years in some of my favorite anime […]

Nüwa’s Growth Diary

Chinese Animation Guide – Part 2: Chinese Anime shows

As much as I hated the term Chinese Anime (Anime stands for Japanese animation, strictly speaking), this is the exact term for those shows. Their influence from the Anime was so heavy that apart from the voice cast and some scene settings, you can’t tell those apart from the original anime. With that said, judge from […]