Posted on 7 March 2011 with categories: OVA Impressions, Seikai no Monshou



The Seikai franchise has two OVAs, one that takes place after the three TV-series, and one prequel. While the former felt like the creators were stuffing an entire novel into just fifty minutes, the latter is an interesting little side-story. Like the title suggests, this isn’t about Lafiel, but instead about her parents.

This OVA works as a background OVA, telling a bit more about who Lafiel’s parents were (about which we were mostly left in the dark throughout the TV-series), but as a standalone short story it also works pretty well. It’s got a good atmosphere, and although it’s simple it’s well told and paced.

And of course, as expected from this series the dialogue is excellent. The characters are once again very eloquent and a lot of this OVA just consists out of Lafiel’s parents talking to each other. The script continues to be interesting and blend in well with the story that’s going on.

If you’re planning to watch this OVA, I’d recommend to at least watch it after watching the first half of the first season, otherwise it will lose some of its meaning. It’s a nice watch for any fan of the franchise, though.
OVA Episode Rating: 8,25/10

Posted on 15 April 2010 with categories: Anime Reviews, Seikai no Monshou



Seikai no Senki III again is completely different from its predecessors. It’s much lighter, the conflict is much simpler, and there’s a lot more emphasis on random conversations than ever. It;’s about Jinto, as he returns to his home planet after having been gone for years. At an hour’s length, I at first believed that this was going to be another one of those unimportant side-stories that you often see in DVD-specials nowadays, but Jinto really develops throughout this OVA.

But yeah, one hour is still way too short, and it also doesn’t help that the creators try to do way too many things at the same time. It could have worked if the creators only focused on Jinto’s development, but for some reason they wanted just about every character to some kind of cameo here. There’s just too much time wasted on pointless banter between these side-character, including a rather strangely out of place mock-battle of which I still nave no idea what point it tried to make.

The strangest thing about this OVA though, is one particular side-character: Ekuryua. Do not ask me why, but this girl completely changes character, beyond anything that was established about her in the previous series. It’s especially grating because the creators keep using this as some kind of quirky gimmick, but those attempts at comedy never really work.

So overall this OVA definitely had the right intentions, and Jinto’s development is as good as ever, but unfortunately it overall was poorly balanced and needed a lot more episodes to really shine like its predecessors.

Storytelling: 7/10 – Not focused enough for such a short OVA.
Characters: 8/10 – Jinto’s development rocks, but there are too many pointless side-character cameos.
Production-Values: 8/10 – A graphical upgrade… including a bunch of recycled scenes…
Setting: 8/10 – Excellent, but could have been even better with more episodes.

Suggestions:
Space Fantasia: 2001 Nights
Tytania

Posted on 12 April 2010 with categories: Anime Reviews, Seikai no Monshou



While both Seikai no Monshou and Senki were excellent series, to me it seemed like they still were missing something, and I don’t just mean Monshou’s disappointing finale. I still can’t exactly put my finger to it, but whatever it was: Seikai no Senki II has it. The third Seikai series more than surpasses its predecessors.

It doesn’t just take the best of the two prequels: the dialogue of Monshou and the combat of Senki. It also introduces a complete new layer: diplomacy. A huge part of this season is about the two lead characters, in charge of a planet full of prisoners that’s about to descend into a civil war. The planet’s political system consists out of four parties with all their own issues yet who have to live together somehow. I personally loved watching Jinto trying to save himself in this situation: his words suddenly carry the lives of tens of thousands.

The dialogue of Seikai no Monshou and Senki was already really good, but Senki II’s dialogue turns out even better. The creators put so much meaning in just about every sentence. Every sentence is spot-on, whether it’s about the characters in the series, or the politics. The scenario itself is also full of twists and turns that yet make full sense when put into the story itself.

The series thrusts us really in a world that neither the characters nor the audience knows anything about. It cleverly makes use of the fact that it’s already got 26 episodes of established characters, while at the same time it also delivers powerful new characters who are gripping and full of flaws from the beginning. While the first Seikai no Senki was generally very focused (it was very much a series about war), Senki II instead was about a whole array of stuff: it’s a very varied series in which one episode may be about politics on a small insignificant planet, the next about space battles, on to switch back to some banter between a bunch of army commanders. It covers the full spectrum. Seriously Sunrise: why don’t you make stuff like this anymore?

Storytelling: 10/10 – Perfectly paced, varied, hard-hitting; science-fiction at its finest.
Characters: 9/10 – Terrific dialogue, both the old and new characters rock.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Excellent music. The graphics do what they need to do and nothing more.
Setting: 9/10 – Excellent portrayal of an ongoing war on many different levels.

Suggestions:
Toward the Terra
Hi no Tori – Uchuu-Hen
Gasaraki

Posted on 10 March 2010 with categories: Anime Reviews, Seikai no Monshou



I like how, even though it’s a direct sequel, Seikai no Senki is completely different from Seikai no Monshou. It shows that the creators aren’t one trick ponies, and it makes the premise much more dynamic to see it explored in all those different ways. Seikai no Monshou was pretty much a space adventure series. Seikai no Senki however, is war. And let me tell you, I can count the series that managed to portray science fiction battles in a more realistic way than what we saw here on one hand.

During the battles, the lead characters Lafiel and Jinto may not be the centre of the focus. They may not hold the key of victory, and they may not possess a god-mode weapon that can take out several enemy ships in a row. Their ship may not magically dodge bullets, and they also may not fight according to their own battle plans, and instead have to follow orders. But that’s the great thing about it! The battles here are believable and purposefully kept from going over the top. 2000 years (or however long humanity may take before developing stable spaceflight) into the future, I can totally see large-scale space battles happen in a similar fashion.

As compared to Seikai no Monshou, which walked all over the place, Seikai no Senki is a very focused story, and much more consistent. It tells two stories at the same time. One part is focused at a single ship, and the people who command it. The other focus is at the top officials and admirals, who attempt to steer the battle in the right directions. Due to the large amount of time that it spends fleshing out these people through their dialogue, it becomes fascinating to see these people strategize.

As for the dialogue… well, Seikai no Monshou did just about everything there was to do in terms of hard-hitting and confronting dialogue, so there was no way for Seikai no Senki to beat it. Instead, the dialogue is much more subtle. It’s still very noticably there and Jinto and Lafiel still don’t hesitate at all to speak their minds in a very un-Japanese-like fashion, but it lacks the edge it once had. This one is also much more about creating an atmosphere of what it’s like to command a small battleship at the front lines. The dialogue instead excels in the small things, like characters taking subtle jabs at each other, or subtle hints that are actually meant to flesh out characters beyond what they tell straight-forwardly. Oh, and I loved that cat, who just keeps coming back. There’s hardly anything comedic about it, but it brings a surprisingly human side to the main cast.

I can’t say which one of Seikai no Senki and Seikai no Monshou is the better one. They’re too different to really say for sure: Seikai no Monshou had a bit of a disappointing finale, but an excellent beginning. Seikai no Senki instead doesn’t really have an episode that I’d crown as awesomeness, but instead was excellent from beginning to end. Still, Seikai no Senki did have the advantage that it could use the build-up that was provided by Sekai no Monshou, without which I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Very realistic space battles. No God-mode beams whatsoever and it’s still an action-packed series.
Characters: 9/10 – Less focus on character-development, but the dialogue is incredibly rich in fleshing out its cast.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Still solid, but nothing really special for its time.
Setting: 8/10 – Not as interesting as in Monshou, but still very solid.
Posted on 1 March 2010 with categories: Seikai no Monshou



Well, so this is why, at the start of this contest, I only limited the series that you could force me to blog to 14 episodes: so that I wouldn’t be stuck with 60 unblogged episodes of Monster, in the case that it turned out to be a bad idea. I really apologize: with my current schedule, I just can’t watch and blog older series at a consistent pace, like I do with the currently airing series. Because of that, I just ended up marathoning the rest of this series, and here are my impressions on the entire series.

Seikai no Monshou is yet another one of the series that reinforces my beliefs that the Sunrise of around ten years ago rocked beyond belief: they consistently brought out interesting, daring, exciting and innovative science-fiction mecha series with great premises. Seikai no Monshou at first sight is another science fiction series, but it sets itself apart by its imaginative and especially very detailed execution.

The central focus is the chemistry between the two lead characters. Coming from two completely different backgrounds, this series shows both of their backgrounds, and tells in great detail about the history of the universe they’re set in, especially on the race called the Abh. The gem of this series lies in its dialogue: the dialogue between the two lead characters is direct, straight to the point it forces you to confront difficult issues, rather than jumping around them. The difference in their upbringing is shown subtly but powerfully throughout this dialogue.

The battles in this series are also often very down to earth, and focused more at skill rather than just going over the top with explosions. Unfortunately, there are times at which this series does forget that and turns into an action flick. The final episode, instead of closing off with a powerful climax instead just opts for the kind of battle in which the enemy soldiers (both well-trained police and military officers) conveniently miss every shot they fire, yet get killed off instantly when the lead characters shoot at them.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t ruin the rest of the series that leads up to it, which is an exceptionally written science fiction story that puts a lot of emphasis on the characterization and dialogue between the two lead characters.

Storytelling: 8/10 – Realistic, down to earth and yet powerful, though the final arc isn’t the best.
Characters: 9/10 –
Production-Values: 8/10 – Solid, but surprisingly dated at this point.
Setting: 9/10 – Well detailed, realistic and imaginative back-stories, both for the characters and the world that this series is set in.
Posted on 20 February 2010 with categories: Seikai no Monshou



Blogging this series has shown me that I’m very selectively punctual. While I promised that I’d blog this series weekly, this entry has had more than a week delay, apologies for that. Blogging this series has been an interesting experiment, but in the end I don’t think that I can blog a series that has already been fully released consistently and at this point, I think I’ll just end up marathoning the two Banner of the Stars, instead of blogging them weekly. I know it’s something that’s completely in my head, but still.

In any case, a great episode. It was very intriguing. This episode showed a completely different side of the Abh: the elitist and racist one. This episode rocked in the way that it slowly revealed the exact stance of the Baron that Jinto and Lafiel ended up at. This episode showed how great this series is at building up: that final shot of Lafiel smiling was a very powerful one.

And the emotions: anime is often a medium of overacting, but this show is different. The subtle emotions of the characters show exactly how they feel, and yet no attempt is made to make them over the top, apart from perhaps those nameless maids.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 8 February 2010 with categories: Seikai no Monshou



One feature of anime that I’m glad has mostly disappeared over the past ten years is the obligatory summary of the previous episode. This episode was one of those examples in which this got taken too far as it spent its first five minutes recapping what happened in the previous episode.

The rest of the episode however more than made up for it. In this episode we get our first taste of the space battles in this series, and the creators have really shown that they know how to write one. It takes the approach of the unidentified enemy: we know that there are a bunch of enemies out there, we just have no idea who they are. If you can make these enemies still behave like real people, even though you never show them, you can get some amazing effects. Later, series as Starship Operators and Bokura no would improve even more on this formula. And in a way, I feel that the former took its inspiration from this series: taking the very technical style of space-battles, and making them even more realistic and believable, rather than just have a bunch of spaceships fire at each other.

The destruction of the Gosroth also is extra bad for Lafiel, since her mother just died. It turns out that one of the reason why the captain was so harsh on Lafiel was because she was partially trying to raise the girl she “provided her genes for”. She tells Jinto this in their escape. Even though they’re travelling together again, just like a few episodes ago, the mood between the two is completely different and gloomy, and yet you can see that they’ve gotten already more used to each other.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 30 January 2010 with categories: Seikai no Monshou



I love how this series plays around with morals. In the first episode, it really seemed like the Abh were your stereotypical evil empire full of evil emotionless Nazis that like to conquer people. And yet now that we’ve gotten to see a bit of their side of the story, then we suddenly see that these people are surprisingly human, and despite having power-hungry leaders, it’s not like all of them are heartless monsters. Cultural values and differences also play huge differences on hate and distance between the Abh and other nations. That makes me wonder what the Abh themselves think about their habit of not getting involved with the nations they conquer. Could it be that it’s not like they keep out of the nations they conquer because they believe they’ll be hated and nobody would want to cooperate?

This episode was mostly about these complex kinds of politics, rather than two previous episodes, which were more focused at just Jinto and Lafiel. And it did well in making it sink in that wars can take multiple centuries before being resolved. I hope that one of the future episodes will show the story from the perspective of the opposing alliance of those four countries. That will really allow us as viewers to form a complete picture. That sudden attack of them to the ship came seemingly out of nowhere, so I’m very interested in their exact reason and mindset for initiating that attack.

Overall, we probably won’t see her again after this point, but I liked that captain of the ship a lot. Before she appeared, I had this totally distorted image of the Abh, but she showed that the Abh are a varied race. That’s something that I often miss in stories that make up their own races: sure, the humans are varied, with all sorts of different bastards and nice guys walking around. And yet the elves are tree-loving, intelligent and use bows, dwarfs are small, grumpy and live in caves and the angels are all stuck-up and pretentious. With small tribes, I can understand: the herd instinct will likely develop these people with slightly similar personalities. But entire races? Nah.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 23 January 2010 with categories: Seikai no Monshou



Oh, I love this. I love it when a series can take nearly an entire episode and fill it with nothing but dialogue, especially the meaningful kind. I now understand why people were praising this series for its romance, and this episode really showed what a well written dialogue can do to your characters. I sometimes hear people say that one of the most important rule of storytelling is to “show, not tell”, but I disagree with that: the combination between what you show and what you tell should be important.

Despite being a relatively uneventful episode, the chemistry between Jinto and Lafiel already rocked after only three episodes. It’s also not line one of them is so much smarter or talkative to the other: they basically strengthen each other: whenever Lafiel asks a difficult question, you can see Jinto think hard about it, come with an answer and reply with a question that’s just as hard or confronting.

I think what I liked best was that part in which Jinto discovered that Lafiel used a fake name, and tried to apologize like hell about making her uncomfortable and actually calling her by her real title. He of all people should know how annoying it must be to have everyone regard him as nobility. At this point, I’d now love to see Lafiel together with some of the other crew members. We know how she thinks that they treat her, but I’d love to see their side of the story as well.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 15 January 2010 with categories: Seikai no Monshou



So this episode is a more formal introduction of the characters, while the previous episode showed more what the history of the setting was. Again, it has a lot of ingredients that you see in other anime as well, which mostly centred around Lafiel: she’s a young, cute girl of an exotic race that everyone hates.

But the characterization is done so well!

At first this episode took its time to show how Jinto has grown up after the previous episode, and how he kept his nobility secret from the friends that he grew up with. It already added a lot of depth to the guy by showing him close off his childhood, and his anxieties for his future. He’s already someone with his own identity, and who doesn’t have to rely on cheap stereotypes in order to stand out.

And then Lafiel. I really like how direct her questions are. This episode did an excellent job in showing the cultural differences between the humans and the Abh: Jinto has never met one of the Abh, since they hardly ever bother to show themselves among the humans, and at the same time Lafiel has grown up, never meeting a human. This episode portrayed the Abh as a very direct race: it’s common with them to be to the point, to the point where they’ve developed a culture that’s completely void of human laziness.

And again: Lafiel is not just a caricature of this culture. While this episode showed the general traits of the Abh, Lafiel also had her own personality.

It’s also interesting that this series was produced, right at the time where CG became actually possible to include in anime. You can see that there are no 3D models, but the creators do make use of the smaller stuff, like lighting, shadows and some computer screens. It was before companies got too confident and started to overuse it. Turn A Gundam which was produced around the same time as this series showed this as well: it was mostly CG free, though the eye-catch in the middle of each episode experimented with it.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

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