Posted on 25 June 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews, Crystal Blaze


Some great anime have a very detailed art-style with absolutely gorgeous animation. Others have a smashing soundtrack, performed by a famous composer. Others hired a cast of well-known voice-actors to perform on their characters. Again others put a lot of attention to their dialogue to make this as deep and thought provoking as possible. And more others don’t have any of this and just want to tell a good story. And that’s where Crystal Blaze belongs: an excellent anime on a low budget and the dark horse of the past spring-season.

The production-values are nothing to write home about. The animation is simple, the CG is obvious and not integrated and it doesn’t have a big animation-company working behind it (after all, Studio Fantasia’s reputation is rather questionable). And still, it makes up for everything through its amazing storytelling. The story itself is not very complex, but the way it’s told makes it something special. Throughout 12 episodes, not even one scene was wasted. Every episode continues to develop both the characters and the plot, ending in a very satisfying climax. There are no plot-holes whatsoever, everything gets closed off nicely, there are no stereotypes. For a fan of storytelling such as myself, this series was pure gold.

You should be aware of one thing if you want to watch this series, though. This series became the dark horse of this season for a reason. There’s one particular character which will turn off a lot of viewers: Manami. This is supposed to be a tale about adults, but she’s one of the very few teenagers in it, and she very easily gets on your nerves. She’s not a bad character by any means, and her weaknesses are used well, but the fact remains that the combination of an annoying voice and her continuous whining make her a very hard to like character. Thankfully, she gets less annoying as the series goes on.

Speaking of voice-acting, this is the second series along with Kurenai that did something interesting with its voice-actors. I can’t exactly pinpoint to what it was that the creators did, but conversations end up sounding much more like ordinary conversations instead of coming from a recording-studio.

All in all, Crystal Blaze turned out to be among my favourites this season, due to its great cast and awesome storytelling. This is exactly what a twelve-episode series needs to be, and I hope to see more non-fanservice series from Studio Fantasia in the future!

Posted on with categories: Crystal Blaze


Oh god, the creators actually did it! They actually pulled off a great ending as well. This episode was really good, and amongst the best of the entire series. One thing I’ve noticed with endings that they often feel rather lukewarm. I think that my opinion of this seems to change with every season, but right now, I believe that a good ending comes from an episode that uses the building-up of the rest of the series. Too often I’ve seen endings that never use anything that’s been built up for apart from that bad guy that’s dead now, or something similar.

[SPOILERS sort-of follow for the endings of Ghost Hound, Kurenai, Bokura no and Seirei no Moribito] As much as I hate to admit it, thinking back, Ghost Hound’s ending wasn’t that good. It looked like a series that kept building up, but it never really built up for the stuff that actually happened in the climax. In the same way, Kurenai’s ending where Murasaki proposed to stay also came from nowhere, which is probably why that ending felt rather weird. An example of a good ending is Seirei no Moribito: it was very straightforward, but it kept the same pacing and mood as in the rest of the series. The ending for Bokura no is such an example as well: it remained within the flow of the original series, while also providing a lot of new things that fitted within the series.

Crystal Blaze in the same way stays within the same mood in its final episode, and doesn’t become anything completely different. There’s still its great sense of storytelling present, and it still had a lot going on. There were a few clichés here and there (the self-destruct-button that needed to be stopped, the finish with a big explosion), but the execution was done well enough to make these twists acceptable.

I have to especially give this series credit for the way this episode started. I mean, how many times have we already seen an important character, about to be shot, followed by a fade-out and a cliff-hanger? I nearly forgot that people can actually get shot in these kinds of things. Seeing Sara getting shot in the back was a real way to catch my attention, as ironically, I never saw that one coming, even though she’s got the powers to regenerate and all.

This was also really an episode where the characters really come together. Everyone apart from perhaps Manami (who only played a really small part anyway) was really awesome to watch. The humour was better than ever, and you’ve got to love the return of JJ. As it turns out, the poor guy was never caught, and instead he had been hiding inside the building’s air shafts for all this time.

Now that everything is over, I’m still of the opinion that Crystal Blaze is among the best series this season, and it really knew how to use its limited time of 12 episodes. Especially since the production-values are nothing to write home about, this really surprised me. For those who quit this series due to Manami: don’t worry. Once this series hits its second half, she becomes a regular side-character and the focus shifts to the other ones.

To close off, this series has one of the funniest aftermaths. Even when compared to pure comedies (who never seem to be that good with their aftermaths anyway, for some strange reason). Doc, dressed up as Kitoh was awesome. Although I didn’t wish to have seen that “particular” shot of Porilyn…

Posted on 19 June 2008 with categories: Crystal Blaze


Talk about an excellent first half of a finale! 12-episode series shouldn’t have “calm before the storm”-episodes. It wastes a precious episode that could have been used so much better, and all these episodes to fill time until the next episode, when the big climax is going to happen. Granted, this way you end up with a great climax, but at the same time there’s a dull build-up that breaks flow a bit.

This is why I really like Crystal Blaze’s style of storytelling: first it spends five minutes as an aftermath of the previous episode, sets a few pieces of the puzzle right and prepares a bit, and very soon it heads into a new direction with an action-packed climax. This keeps the series exciting and the flow of storytelling remains roughly consistent. Perhaps I’ve become bored by series who abuse “calm before the storms” and aftermaths too much, who know.

So basically what happens in this episode: Kitoh has to leave his base (obviously because it’s been discovered), so he kills off his entire staff apart from his research subjects, Kirie and Doc. Doc indeed was just faking to have switched sides in order to get a close look at Kitoh’s research, and because of his obsession to finally find a scientist who is interested in his work, Kitoh never doubts this. BW-alpha also turns out to be able to transform into a huge monster, but as expected she’s still imperfect and rather weak to the blood of a humanoid weapon. The episode ends as Sara is about to turn into crystal and Shu is about to shoot her, which will make her blood come into contact with BW-alpha and kill it off.

What surprises me is that in this series, no attempts have been made to make the viewer care about BW-alpha. Even though she’s a little girl, she’s portrayed at nothing but a monster. Usually in anime that don’t focus on children, young girls like that have the “she’s little! care for her!”-mentality (see the Kohane-arc in xxxHolic). Quite refreshing that this is indeed a story about “adults”.

I’m really interested to see where this series will end. There’s one episode left, and we know that Sara is going to die, though considering the rest of this series, it seems unlikely that the creators don’t have a few juicy twists left in store. I must say that Crystal Blaze has been the big surprise this season, along with Kaiba. I admit that I was really looking forward to it when I saw the promo-image, though when I looked at the character-designs, this enthusiasm faded a bit. “Everything looks generic, so it’s probably going to be generic”. Hah, the creators sure managed to deliver an awesome series with these generic ingredients.

Posted on 11 June 2008 with categories: Crystal Blaze


Now that’s an aftermath! I’ve lately noticed that a lot of aftermaths in anime after a big climax are relatively boring, where characters do nothing but angst and try to let the events of said climax sink in. It may be because I’ve seen things like these for too many times, but they’re often disappointing and break a bit of flow.

Crystal Blaze does things right, though. It may be an aftermath, but it wastes no time to not only let the characters catch a breath, but it also wraps up the involved parties and sets up the interesting stage for the next episodes. It was really fun to see all the different parties do their own thing throughout the episode, but that’s just a personal preference of mine.

And of course it was obvious that Manami and Ayaka would screw up and get captured. She still has her attitude of wanting to do something important, and in her worries for the wounded Akira, she forgot to pay attention to hide herself. There was nobody there to stop them, so it’s in any case much better than Shinkurou returning home in Kurenai. What surprised me was how sensei swapped sides so easily. Could this be a trick to fool the enemy, or is he genuinely interested in Kitoh’s research?

I’m curious, though. There are two episodes left, and with a plot this fast, there’s got to be more than “Ayaka and Manami are saved, Kitoh is dead”, especially with the pacing of this series. It would be a shame for the pacing to die down at this point.

Posted on 4 June 2008 with categories: Crystal Blaze


Awesome episode! Only now I realize how similar this series is to Kurenai: we have Shinkurou taking care of Murasaki versus Shu, taking care of Sara. Manami and Ayaka are comparable to Shinkurou’s two neighbours, while Poririn and the tech-guy whose name I forgot are similar to Benika. In Kurenai, the bad guy is a family, obsessed over their own bloodline, while Crystal Blaze has a crazy scientist who’s obsessed over his own research. Both evil parties also have well-trained goons and spend the first 8 episodes, trying to track down the good party.

The big difference is that Crystal Blaze puts a lot of emphasis on storytelling, while the big focus of Kurenai is the dialogue. As a result, Crystal Blaze has a plot that continues to develop with lots of interesting twists and turns, and Kurenai is at its best when characters are just talking to each other. If I had to be honest, then I’d say that I like Crystal Blaze better, but that’s mostly because of how well it handled the beginning of its finale, when compared to Kurenai. I didn’t pay much attention to it when I watched the latest episode of Kurenai, but the fact remains that Kurenai’s wish to go back to his home one more time, even though they were discovered was stupid, while in the case of Crystal Blaze it was only a matter of time before they were found, plus Shu and the others couldn’t move anywhere because Sophia was turning into glass.

And I must say, that Sophia’s death was really built up well, and it turned out really touching. The second episode then wasted no time to give us a small gunfight, and I must say that it was quite an interesting idea to fool the enemy’s night-vision by turning up the heat to body-temperature. I’m not sure whether this actually works in real life as well, but it’s an interesting idea. On top of that, Akira’s gotten shot in his shoulder. With only three episodes left, I’m really curious to see where this one is planning to end.

Posted on 28 May 2008 with categories: Crystal Blaze


The past week, I’ve gotten a few interesting comments, along the lines of “this post says nothing about the actual episode, what an informative anime blog” (with the last part being obvious sarcasm), and they got me thinking. It’s not the first part that got me (heck, I’m all for constructive criticism), but rather the assumption that every anime blog should have a summary for each single post. I’ve personally never seen Star Crossed as an episode summary blog. It’s more that I write about whatever catches my interest after watching an episode. Depending on my mood, I randomly summarize a bit and add a few thoughts on the episode in question. But are there more people who feel that I should put more focus on summaries?

Having said that though, I do realize how my past posts on Crystal Blaze have been mostly thoughts and hardly any sentence on what happened. I’ve been carried away by the many surprising good points of this series. So, for variety’s sake, here is a summary of the episode. And boy, was it a great one. :)

The episode starts where the previous episode left off: the swat team, who was assigned to put a stop on Kitou’s research, is inside the closed space where Kitou and Kirie unleash a glass woman upon them. This woman quickly slaughters the entire squadron, as bullets seem to not work on her. Kitou explains that with the help of a special ring, the glass woman knows who she should attack and who she should leave alone.

When everyone in the chamber has died, the woman goes after the rest of the swat team, who she defeats easily. Very soon, more glass women come and help her. Meanwhile in the same underground facility, JJ and Sophia witness this bloodbath, as Sophia tapes it, and they’re astounded at the capabilities of the glass women. Because the security is busy with the swat-team, they can move around quite freely and they end up in what looks like the main database. There they find out that Kitou has been using live women for his research, and he’s turned them into experimental subjects.

JJ tries to call the chief of police, though there’s no connection. While he’s rambling on ethical issues, Sophia tries to copy the data she’s found for evidence. Meanwhile back at the glass women: they suddenly freeze and shatter. Kitou’s research has improved, though the HW-series is still imperfect. Kirie then suggests using the BW-series from now on (I’m wondering: what does the “B” stand for? Bio-weapon, or something?). Kitou, however, is still interested in the experiment, mainly because of what a success HW9 turned out to be, which is why he wants to retrieve her: in order to figure out why she’s special. (does he know that she’s about to die anyway?)

Kirie and the rest of security then go on and clean up the rest of the swat-team that wasn’t killed by the glass maidens, while JJ and Sophia are discovered by a random guard that passed by. They manage to make it towards the stairs that lead to the exit, and at that point I guess that JJ wants to hold off the guards so that Sophia escapes. Sophia runs up the stairs and a number of gunshots sound, but we have no freaking idea what happened back then.

Meanwhile, outisde the base, the three members of the swat-team that left behind fail to make any contact to their comrades. Akira meanwhile is still spying on them, and listening to their communications. It’s then that the few survivors manage to make it back outside and report. Akira then tells this to Shu, as the chief of police enters his room. Shu then tells him about what his little nephew and Sofia have been doing, and is surprised how the chief of police didn’t know that.

As Sophia reaches the door to the exit, she realizes that it’s shut and that she can’t get out. She then calls Shu for help. She tells him where she is, but before they can finish the call, one of the guards discovers her and destroys her phone. The chief of police then wants to come along with Shu because of JJ, but Shu tells him, as well as Manami and Ayaka to remain where they are. Meanwhile, Kitou and Kirie inject Sophia with the strange liquid that turns you into glass.

Ayaka meanwhile finds it strange that all sites about the glass women have gone down. Sara meanwhile continues to be troubled by her left arm changing to glass. When Shu arrives at the hidden base Akira waits for him and both of them rush to the entrance, where they find a naked Sophia with one glass arm, and they take her to Doc as quickly as possible. It’s a bit strange that Kitou would just “let” Sophia escape, and indeed: she also received a bracelet when she was injected, and in this bracelet there’s a transmitter.

The strange thing is that Shu is just fine touching Sophia, and doesn’t get burned. The others arrive and are shocked at the glass arm, especially Sara, and the episode ends.

Kitou’s getting pretty decent for a pure villain. Often, the villains that get fleshed out are somehow misunderstood. While this is nice to watch, it’s also good to see someone who really doesn’t have any ethical values and is more than just a stereotype that’s used to keep the story going. He himself is a mad scientist, obsessed by his creations. The guy is much better than most other villains, who only sit in a chair and do nothing but look evil.

Posted on 22 May 2008 with categories: Crystal Blaze


Ah, the standard episode in which a character is angsting and his or her friends spend the episode trying to talk him or her out of it. I now realize how often such an episode can go wrong: it’s obviously predictable, and often it comes across rather lazy. I now realize that series as Suteki Tantei Labyrinth and Code Geass did a rather pathetic job on it: Mayuki and Lelouch did nothing but angst over what happened, then his friends come and say a few words, and they act like nothing ever happened.

Episodes like this one need lots of inspired dialogue. They need introspection, both from the character him/herself and from the ones around him. They mustn’t try to be standalone episodes, assuming that the next episode will continue on like nothing ever happened. And I must say that Crystal Blaze did a pretty good job at it. Manami was definitely depressed, but I like how the creators used a bit of comedy in order to lighten up the mood from all her angst. In this series, the characters actually try to understand both each other and themselves, and that’s what makes this so appealing.

Seriously, Crystal Blaze is one of these series where every major character has become likable, and especially the good guys are a joy to watch. I already sung praises to Shu and Manami, but Ayaka’s caring nature and Akira’s down-to-earth nature are also wonderful. And of course Poririn rocks as well. Th relatively large emphasis so far on the bad guys also really helps. These guys are definitely not your typical misunderstood villains, and they they’re turning out really nicely.

I’m really not sure what exactly it was that the creators did, but this is everything a 12-episode series should be. The reason why I prefer 26 or 39-episode series above series of such a short length is that they can easily go wrong if they’re not focused, and it takes something special to get some quality development out of the characters, something which is much easier for series with 26 episodes, because it usually takes me around 10 episodes to really connect with the cast of characters.

Posted on 14 May 2008 with categories: Crystal Blaze


Hah, I don’t care about the general opinion: this show rocks! It may be the most neglected series of the season, but for me it definitely belongs in the top-10 of the series that aired this season.

In this age of big budgets, it’s good to see that a relatively unknown company as Studio Fantasia is also trying its best to put down a classic. One of the things I don’t like about this season is that nearly every good series is done by the big animation studios, as Madhouse, Gonzo, Deen, etc. The studios that are relatively unpopular don’t seem to be even trying (for example A.C.G.T with its questionable Monochrome Factor).

I’m really glad to see that Studio Fantasia is trying to improve itself. Just take a look at their previous work. Before 2006, they only worked on silly shows which only seemed to focus on fanservice, though they pretty much surprised me with their solid work on Souko no Strain, and now they again managed to create a very enjoyable series that goes right where many other series have gone wrong. So yeah, there are a few low-budget parts in this series, mostly the art, but the rest really shines. This should send out a good message to the other lesser-known studios: you can create a good anime, even on a small budget.

Really, this is what a 12-episode series should be: no scene is wasted, quick development and good characterization. A 26-episode can afford to slowly build up for 10 episodes, but series like this one need to deliver quickly. Seeing a series that builds up for eleven episodes, with a climax of only two episodes is nice and all, but it remains mostly boring.

What’s more: the villains actually have some background to them. This episode actually gave the two of them some depth, beyond their stereotypes. It seems that the guy is obsessed with his own work, and is fascinated when he sees how HW-09 has managed to not turn into glass. The woman meanwhile reveals that she knew HW-09 before she became a glass maiden, and as it turns out: she loathed her.

Also, is it me or do the more low-budget series have a bigger tendency to feature good fights than high-budget series? Seriously, I can confidently say that the fight in this episode was better than what I’ve seen from Soul Eater and Macross Frontier so far, even though these series overflow with budget. It’s the same with Gunslinger Girl – Il Teatrino: the animation was bad, and yet the fights were amazingly directed. Somehow, it feels to me that the creators try to make up for the lack of budget by detailed direction, and it really works!

Posted on 7 May 2008 with categories: Crystal Blaze


Why I’m not bothered by Manami’s brattiness:
– She’s not THE main character of this story.
– She’s an interesting combination with the rest of the cast.
– She’s fleshed out pretty nicely. She’s an idiot, she’s naive, and yet she’s easily afraid.

The thing I have against most annoying and stupid teenagers isn’t the fact that they’re annoying, but that they’re badly written. Take Lala from To Love-Ru for example. Sure, she’s an extreme case, but the reason why she’s annoying is because the creators spent no effort whatsoever in making her believable. She instantly falls in love with the male lead with no subtlety whatsoever and I couldn’t spot anything that made her really seem like a living being, an being an alien is no excuse.

I think the biggest reason for this is the creator’s desires to make teenagers important at places where they shouldn’t belong. A teenager who occupies a high rank in a military organization doesn’t usually make sense, so writers make these characters a bit too perfect for their own good, in order to help them survive and remain at their position.

The thing is with Manami, that even though she’s an idiot, the creators never portray her as some kind of hero. The only thing that she’s good at is providing emotional support for others, but this episode showed yet again that she often gets way too ahead of herself and tries to get involved in places she shouldn’t belong.

I still wonder why this series has become so neglected, though. Is Manami such a turn-off? Or does this have to do with Poririn? I admit that he was rather disturbing in this episode, wearing the gala-dress and all, and trying to pee while wearing it… Still the reason why I like this series so much is the chemistry between the different characters. The cast of Crystal Blaze is varied and interesting, and one character’s weaknesses are complemented by another.

Posted on 30 April 2008 with categories: Crystal Blaze


Heh, this episode finally featured an actually funny fanservice joke. When the horny doctor first appeared, I feared the worst, but his nurse’s BSDM have turned out to be quite hilarious. Especially the dog’s outfit was brilliant. Really, if series as Kanokon realized this, they would have been quite fun, though instead they just can’t think beyond the tried-and-true formula of groping, blood-noses and panty-shots.

Fanservice aside, I’m still surprised at how much I’m enjoying this show, seeing as it’s turned into one of the dark horses of this season in the rest of the anime-community. The budget is indeed quite low. Studio Fantasia is no Satelight or Madhouse, so the drawings and animation are quite simple. And yet this has never had a weak episode so far, in my opinion at least. This episode again was a great one, and it finally pushes the plot forward again.

We learn that the one who changed all the women to glass was indeed that little girl. This time, she kills Yuumi, who indeed went on her solo-debut, dropping Seiji without him even knowing it. The glass women like her and Sara were meant as humanoid weapons. Hence why the bad guys are so interested in retrieving her. They’re currently in the process of testing out their work, which has finally shown its fruits.

One thing I also like is how this series has managed to make characters likable who would have been really cliché otherwise. Especially Shu and Manami would have been incredibly annoying if they didn’t receive any development. Manami, however, turned into a really sympathetic character, who’s just finding out how naive she’s been in the past episodes. She’s a girl with real fears, instead of contractor-like behaviour (a la Darker than Black) of knowing what to do in any dangerous situation. Shu meanwhile turned into quite a refreshing main character, who neither is a stereotypical ambitious guy nor a carefree “cool dude”. This guy doesn’t care about being the best; he just cares about the people around him. For some strange reason, both of them have really turned into my favourite characters in this series.

Shoutbox

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  • Syndrome
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 04:23 PM)
    Ok, fourth episode of Psycho Pass was really good. I was afraid of what this second season would looks like, I’m strating now to get hyped.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 02:25 PM)
    @Realist: Stereotyping is intrinsic to human beings in too many ways, so much so that even when a “safe”, “attractive”, “normal” looking person is caught out they still become surprised at the revelation, even if they admit that stereotyping is wrong.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 02:14 PM)
    I think I’ve got a good handle on Yamaguchi Mikoto as an author now, I also read the first volume of Mayonaka and as I thought, it began deceptively and that maybe there wouldn’t be too much to it, but turns into something surprising, far more interesting.
  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 01:38 PM)
    @Trass, I can sort of understand that. Though as you likely noticed, psgels isn’t as active as he used to be. So rather than let this blog die a slow death it would be better to see something done with it. We ain’t prefect but well people improve over time.
  • Trass
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 12:47 PM)
    I came back here after a long while and saw how the blog is active again. I was really excited but then found out it’s not psgels who are writing the posts anymore… I’m happy but really sad at the same time ;w;
  • Bam
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 08:31 AM)
    *this time
  • Bam
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 08:28 AM)
    @K-off: it wasn’t the most visually impressive episode anyways, so it’s alright is time.
  • k-off
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 08:19 AM)
    @Bam I know you’re going to point it out, so yes, I know the screenshots aren’t very good…But it was very difficult for me to find a decent clip that wasn’t a spoiler in this episode.
  • ninjarealist
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 06:42 AM)
    I’m shocked by the news that Jian Ghomeshi has been an evil rapist this entire time. I listened to his show for so long and he always seemed like such a teddy bear. Just shows that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 03:06 AM)
    Then Tougane looks down in a displeased manner and says: “two brainwave scanners would never work, what we need is to put a rubber ducky under the floormat and then if an intruder gets in they will step on it, alarming the cat. We then proceed to dissect the cat to check its body for any signs of stress hormone secretion which will show if someone was indeed there or not”. He then looks away with content and light up a cigarette.

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Tamayura – More Aggressive Review – 75/100

I’m not going to dedicate a post for my impression for the final three episodes of this series. It was just too boring to write much about. I guess that that gives a pretty accurate indication of what I think about this series. Right at the start of Tamayura’s second season, I asked one question: […]

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Silver Spoon Review – 86/100

When Noitamina started airing two series per season, it was amazing. It’s a timeslot that on average tends to be aimed at a much older audience than usual, and having two series with the same mentality definitely helped to bring more diversity to anime overall. Unfortunately it’s a schedule that could not be kept up […]

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Yondemasuyo, Azazel-San Z Review – 82,5/100

Reviewing a comedy sequel usually is quite simple: in most cases it just drops the bomb and runs out of inspiration, and in rare cases it actually manages to stay hilarious. The tricky thing with these kinds of series is that you need to remain funny, and you need to have the inspiration for that. […]

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Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet Review – 81/100

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet tells the storyline of a planet that is completely submerged, with only giant ships residing on the surface, while one of those ships gets visited by this guy and his AI-mecha from this very technologically advanced civilization. Yes, this show is about world building. What this show managed to do […]