Posted on 4 October 2015 with categories: Anime Reviews, Currently Watching:, Gangsta

Gangsta is an anime with a lot of things going for it. A mature cast, gritty themes, a interesting setting and a trio of main characters who can carry the show. However due to a number of factors it never quite reached its potential. The main trio of characters are unconventional and quite interesting with them being a Prostitute, deaf man and a gigolo. The best moments of the show often come from the quiet times between the characters as their relationship and history make for some pretty engaging conversations. Gangsta really shines in the episodes where characters are reminiscing about the past or just talking to each other but these moments are often pushed to the side as the new super powered psycho shows up for our heroes to fight. Through the main trio are fairly decently fleshed out, the rest of the cast are not quite as developed and viewers can’t really gain an attachment to them due to brevity of their screen time. Which is a major problem as the last few episodes deal with too many side characters to bring a decent conclusion to the story.

One of the biggest issues of the show is the inclusion of superpowered humans known as Twilight’s whom turn the fights of this series into over the top Shounen bouts that contrast the overall more grounded aspects of the rest of the show. It’s an alien element which hijacks the show away from it’s more interesting aspects to focus on ridiculous fight scenes which throw all laws of gravity out the window. The plot was lacking a main goal and instead acted as a setup of characters and setting that lead to no payoff because the series ends unceremoniously at the beginning of a story arc. With little chance of a sequel at this time(Especially now that Mangalobe has gone out of business), this makes the series feel unfinished and nothing more than a poor advertisement to read the manga. Art and animation fluctuate between visually stylish to bad as fights are later hindered with still shots and facial features in certain shots, mostly regarding Alex, are positioned incorrectly.

Ultimately Gangsta is a show that attempted to present style over substance but failed due to lacking animation, a unfocused plot and over the top fight scenes. It’s a show I can’t really recommend due to its unfinished nature and good points being too few in number. As the last TV anime Mangalobe made it’s not too bad a way to go out but there is a sense that this story could have been presented better if picked up by those with a more stable company. In the end Mangalobe went out adapting the hard sell and paid for it. That’s commendable but in the end if you reach for high ambitions without taking into account your limits all that’s gained is a bad product. If Mangalobe is ever revived, I recommend you take this lesson to heart and work within your limits to present the best product you can. A polished, focused anime beats a unfinished ambitious idea every time.

Posted on 30 September 2015 with categories: Anime Reviews, Currently Watching:, Gakkou Gurashi

Gakkou is one with a good facade as promotional material would have you believe it was some dime a dozen moe slice of life. I was one who wasn’t fooled by the cute cuddly exterior but I was truly surprised with just how good this anime ended up being. Gakkou is one of those rare examples of an adaption which improves its source material by making use of the animated medium. With visual subtext and better presentation this adaptation took something that could have ended up a mere gimmick of a show and made it so much more. The direction is simply marvellous with little details hidden throughout to reward those who pay close attention. Be it in the slight changes in the opening from episode to episode or the minor details hidden in the background.

The characters are likable though not particularly deep and I fear that shallowness might be a turnoff for some. In a twelve episode series building deep characterization is a challenge that even the often praised Madoka didn’t manage. But Madoka managed to keep the plot in center focus and didn’t wander between it’s two moods. Some of the plot developments are foreshadowed too heavily leaving little surprise when they are finally revealed, though the reveal is often great to see for execution alone. Music can provide the necessary mood though for the large part it’s fairly unnoticeable. Art and animation are adequate with the real effect of scenes being mostly on the presentation of certain scenes.

There are flaws with this odd combination of genres of course and Gakkou still makes use of a lot of the fluff present in moe slice of life, even if it has a purpose now. There are a two or three episodes dedicated to random hijinks that act more to delay the plot. But when the plot takes a dark turn it’s often very effective with some excellent scenes that make use of music and camera shots to the best effect. Ultimately I wish there was more darkness in this show and the manga does have scenes which could have remedied that problem. But alas they were not made use of and I blame the largely unnecessary pool episode for that. The ending is another issue as it does make use of far fetched plot contrivances to provide an ending which could leave viewers cheated or disappointed.

Gakkou remained a consistently good watch throughout it’s run and it is a series which would benefit greatly from a second season. Fans of Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica who are looking for a similar show might scratch that itch with this series, for others however the mix of Moe and horror elements might be too off putting or schizophrenic to enjoy. But to me the juxtaposition of the two sides of the show are what make it the most effective. If either element was played alone this show wouldn’t be quite as interesting but with the two placed together it makes you appreciate both all the more. Or to put it in other terms, Despair is at it’s peak beside the greatest hope

Posted on 4 July 2015 with categories: Anime Reviews

I wonder when it was that a film being childish became a flaw. As a medium grows it takes steps to aim to mature itself and seek a more intellectual level of presenting entertainment. Animation did it as Anime aimed to explore terrontry that cartoons refuse to explore and video games only recently broke away from the stigma of being children’s entertainment. However in doing so I believe a fear was born. A fear to return to making “childish” media or to attempt to step down from creating something that could be considered for kids only. It’s a shame really as some of the most fondly remembered games and shows are those “childish” material.  The Crash’s, Spyro’s, Sly Cooper’s, Dexers laboritories, powerpuff girls, Samurai Jack’s and many more do seem absent in current times. When you get down to it, sometimes you don’t want an intellectual thriller, a political commentary, a satire or philosophical exploration. Sometimes you just want something simple and fun. Trigger have provided exactly that with with the second OVA/movie for Little Witch Academia.

For those who don’t already know, this anime is a result of studio trigger putting up a Kickstarter to help extend a planned second episode for their 2013 animated short made for Anime Mirai 2013. They asked for $150,000 and with the help of 7,938 backers they got $625,518 instead, over three times what they asked for. Thanks to that we have an hour long, wonderfully animated episode that never overstays it’s welcome and is just downright enjoyable from beginning to end. The story is fairly simplistic and is predictable from the get go, as well as the characters being straightforward. Through that really just adds to the charm, for you see to those who grew up watching saturday morning cartoons this anime brings back that nostalgic feeling. You can really tell that this was made with a lot of heart and soul with the animation which is more cartoon than anime styled. On that note many of triggers works tend to go in that direction and it is their strongest suit in my opinion. When you think of a trigger work it’s not for it’s story or deep thought provoking characters but instead for it’s seer energy and lively atmosphere. In that regard it’s hard to judge a Trigger work on a critical standpoint when the real value is just in how it makes you feel. When watching this I knew exactly what was going to happen, I knew Akko would have a falling out with her friends and this would end up with them making up at the climax to help defeat the villain. I seen all the chekhov’s guns get fired and there were no twists and ends that surprised me but I just didn’t care. The journey and characters were so entertaining that I honestly didn’t want it to end.

I think that if this anime deserves real merit it would be in how contained the story is. Often in anime I find that Japanese works seem to have trouble with a small time frame, anime movies in particular are guilty of this. It always seems like they can never wrap up the story in the movies time frame, pacing can just become too slow or go too fast and endings don’t feel like an ending. It’s like a large story crushed into a short time frame but with this the story doesn’t waste a single moment. It went on exactly as long as it should and ended where it needed to end thus creating a solid satisfying experience. I understand that this might not be the kind anime for everyone as I am certain people will get turned off by its simple nature but if you find the character interactions as amusing as I do I say this will give you entertainment that is harder to find in the current market. I can safely say that the backers of this project got their moneys worth which is rarer than you think with Kickstarter projects. Studio Trigger, I missed the Kickstarter for this episode but if you are planning a new kickstarter for the third episode then you can count on me being a backer.

Posted on 28 June 2015 with categories: Anime Reviews, Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks

For a long time now this adaption has been the dreams of many a Fate fan with many believing it would never come to pass, but now that it is here is it everything that we dreamed? Short answer to this is no, long answer is nearly. I feel this show will have many divided on what to think of it, some will claim it’s overhyped garbage, others will think it’s the greatest thing on the face of the planet and few such as myself will see it as good but short of what it could have been. Let me give two pointers on things which could help your enjoyment. One, do not walk into this expecting Fate/Zero 2, many did and naturally they were disappointed. Basically what you should expect here is not a mature thriller but rather a shounen action. This isn’t Fate/Zero and it isn’t trying to be. Second, marathon it. The pacing of this series is dead slow and it’s better experienced in binge sessions rather than sporadically. For those who have no idea on wherther to start from here or watch Fate/Zero first you can start from either and there is no real proper order to watch these shows.

The characters and their interactions are enjoyable though some characters basically disappear in it’s second half. Shirou and Rin make a enjoyable partnership thats a joy to watch and the charisma of Lancer and Archer makes it just impossible to dislike them. The plot has interesting themes though at times they can feel forced down your throat but overall the presentation of a selfless hero’s flaws is interesting. Your enjoyment of the series may depend on your knowledge of the source material as the anime does a poor job of conveying some things which can make certain parts of the story seem like deus ex machina or cheap developments. That aside there are also weaknesses in the original text that carry over to the anime such as excessive monologuing and exposition which becomes tedious in the second half of the series when the fights become much shorter due to either a waning budget or poor decision making.

Regardless of whether people love it or hate it, this anime has set a new standard in animation and art for anime to strive for. The fight scenes only are the kind of thing that action anime dream of. I mean just look at the screenshots for these reviews, this anime is beautifully drawn and beautifully animated. This kind of quality is unimaginable for anime years before and if studios each strive for it we could be seeing an upsurge of truly visually stunning anime. Perhaps then the best animated fights in action anime will not be in the opening of the series. Music for the series is excellent but sadly not quite as noticeable, while scenes are enhanced by it there are a bit too many points of silence in episodes. The pacing of the series is it’s biggest flaw, ranging from hot and cold periods before entering into a snail’s pace for it’s second half. The second half of the series is were the main problems come in as the amount of material left in the game was not enough for a full one cour season. Things begin to get dragged out as dialogues stretch on and less and less happens each episode but if you can get through it you will receive an excellent climax with a resolute satisfying ending.

Despite it having many flaws I do believe this is an anime that anime fans should make a must watch even if only for the visuals. The first half of the series truly is excellent and for all the problems of the second half there are still standout moments such as internal visualization of Shirou coming to terms with his answer to the battle of berserker and Gilgamesh. There is definitely things to love in this adaption and hopefully for new fans it can birth an interest in the series as a whole. Now there’s only the hope that maybe the blu-rays will add more action scenes to the second half and that the upcoming Heaven’s feel movie can be as great as it can be.

Posted on 1 April 2015 with categories: Anime Reviews

When you see a harem anime and sigh as the breasts of the female lead jiggle with every step and wind that can flip a skirt it’s easy to forget that somewhere in Japan a group of people worked hard to get that jiggle right and draw each frame of animation. The hardships of the animation studio are a tough one as they could be demonized for putting in a recap due to production problems or tossed under the train tracks because of a small miscommunication between people. Shirobako is an anime I overlooked because I saw it as typical moe fluff with just glancing at it. Yet it’s the anime that gave me an appreciation for the hard work that goes into my weekly shows. I say this now. Shirobako should be required viewing for any fan of the medium. For it is a well served humble pie to the arrogantly ignorant.

In fact it may be useful for those even not into anime. Shirobako presents the animation workplace and all the trials and tribulations that appear in not only anime production but in every workplace in general. As a working man I can relate to Aoi’s starry eyed leave from school, only to discover the mundanity of the job. Or Shizuka’s powerlessness as she attempts to get a job but is put aside due to a lack of experience. Shirobako has a lot of truths about working life that school doesn’t teach. Like the most important lesson of all, in any job there is a Tarou. There is always a Tarou. That guy who somehow bluffed his way into a job he can’t do, never gets fired and pretty much does nothing but make your life more difficult. Out of the five main girls there’s bound to be one that encounters something you will, or have faced. And it presents it with cynical wit and lighthearted tone making it an addictive experience.

But I am not here to lavish praise for I am a critic and thus must critique. Do I even need to comment on how unlikely it is that five cute girls enter anime production? Its clear that a number of girls here have been added for the moe factor. The most grievous offender being a artist who is so shy she requires another person to interpret what she says through a series of small utterings. Though I do relate to the struggles the main five goes through I find that they are not interesting characters. When the story moves away from the animation process and focuses on daily event it becomes significantly less interesting. It doesn’t do it often but when it does things tend to get bogged down. I do feel it’s also a little bit of a optimistic filter of the animation industry but that’s a personal grip. The art and animation is up to PA works standards and for once I think the photo realistic backgrounds don’t seem out of place when compared to the anime character models. There are also strange moments of collective hallucination which come out of nowhere and are rather off putting considering this show is set mainly in reality. Like when they are talking about a plane anime and out of nowhere the plane shows up outside and it seems like everyone sees it but then they just go back to talking like nothing ever happened. I get the intent but it just forces me to do a double take every time it happens. This last thing is definitely a nitpick but at times things in Shirobako are too animated for a show set in reality. Characters can heavily overact, mainly for comedic effect. Its hard to explain but things feel staged, when they should be natural.

There’s a lot to love in Shirobako and I am honestly truly glad that I have seen it. It teaches you a truth often forgotten. That the anime you love and the anime you hate didn’t just spring into existence. That there’s some poor souls working day and night to bring animated characters to life and show us their stories. To the animators of Japan, you have my sympathy and my respect. Though sadly if your end product is terrible, you will not have my leniency.

Posted on 12 September 2014 with categories: Anime Reviews

Let me talk a bit about Ryousuke Nakamura. For a long time, this guy was my hero. He started off as an assistant director to Monster, in my opinion a big reason why that series got such a ridiculously solid adaptation, and then in 2008 he came with the groundbreaking Mouryou no Hako. No TV-series was like what we saw there. A year later, he completely rewrote the classic story of Hashire Melos to the point of brilliance, while he still kept incredibly faithful to the original work. This guy’s hands were pure genius. Afterwards, he left Madhouse, the company he was under contract of, and he started working freelance.

Now the problem with working freelance is that it’s a lot harder to land really good jobs. The best example of that is Dai Sato, a brilliant writer (think Erbo Proxy, Eureka Seven), who in the meantime of writing episodes here and there has resigned to writing kiddie shows in order to pay the bills. Ryousuke Nakamura thankfully fared better, but even then he has not gotten the golden opportunity that will give him complete freedom yet. The only television-series he did was Aiura, which was a 5-minute episode show about a bunch of girls that do nothing. It was incredibly well executed and all, but you can’t do anything with that kind of a setup. Beyond that he’s done all kinds of jobs here and there, from episode directing to storyboards, to production progress, to also just animating.

There is only one serious thing that he took the main seat as the director at… and its biggest focus is a romance between middle schoolers. That’s also its biggest problem right there: Monster! A tense thriller across Germany! Mouryou no Hako, a ground-breaking mystery chockful of Japanese folklore after World War II. Aoi Bungaku! A look into the mind of the writer of Hashire Melos! Nerawareta Gakuen! A teenaged romance with time travel!

So yeah, there are cliches. He doesn’t shy away from that. In some cases, he even takes cliches, gives the illusion of subverting them, only to subvert those subversions again and adhere to the cliches, repeats that several times after. And yeah, when you take into account that there will be lots of teenaged hormones… this pretty much is a beautifully executed movie. It takes care to make its four main characters well rounded, the side cast all are enjoyable and likable, the story brings in enough twists. With the cliches ingredients, it tries to make as much of it as it can and the themes that it uses, and the ideas that the whole story revolves around are actually pretty damn interesting. This also is not one of those romances in which nothing happens. Stuff does happen. It’s cliched obviously, but the most important part is this: both the characters and the relationships between these characters are constantly evolving.

Visually this show is perfect. You can see lots of the signature tricks that Ryousuke Nakamura loves to pull for his series. There obviously are the shots that are spammed with sakura leaves, but also the more subtle things. When characters move, they move full of energy and inspiration. Their facial expressions are full of emotions. All of this leads to a cast that feels very believable and relatable. This movie is already more than a year old and I didn’t notice any sort of buzz around it. It’s a pity, because it’s pretty damn charming for what it is. I’d say that the acting in Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo was a bit better than this one, but it’s definitely not by much.

Then there is the ending. I want to talk about it, but I’ll be as vague as possible for the sake of spoilers. At first sight the ending seems to suggest that it was rushed. Things happen fast. However, I believe that it somehow worked out very well. It’s the kind of ending that doesn’t explicitly spell everything out for you. It allows you as a viewer to fill in the blanks, and it’s even a bit open to interpretation at some points. I would not call it rushed to the point where it becomes flawed. Instead it makes the ending work and gives you something to think about. Not bad for a movie targeted at kids.

Posted on 30 December 2013 with categories: Anime Reviews

Okay, so I didn’t want to exit 2013 without having seen Masaaki Yuasa’s Kick Heart. It’s only twelve minutes anyway, and I consider him to be one of the best anime directors out there.

The story here is pretty silly and mostly serves as a backdrop, so I mostly want to talk about the nature of this little short: how it was crowd-funded and they actually got Masaaki Yuasa to direct it, Mamoru Oshii served as the consultant to make it happen, and They got a lot of talented animators involved. Because of this I love it. The creative team here attempted something really ambitious, and they actually succeeded in it.

Because of that, it’s also not surprising that Masaaki Yuasa got full creative control over the animation, and this probably is his most personal work since Mind Game. Especially with Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei you could see that it wasn’t just his work, albeit it still was really well executed, Kaiba was probably also forced into at least a normal storyline (for very good reasons by the way, because it turned out amazing), and even Kemonozume looked like some compromises had to be made. Here, the only compromise was the short length of only 12 minutes. He could really goof off as much as he wanted here, and the result is incredibly trippy. The animation is utterly gorgeous because of it.

This short made me learn a lot about Yuasa’s style, and I’m even more amazed at how well he works together with other people. This guy, when he is on his own, he can create completely unique stuff like Mind Game, but when he’s more under control he actually manages to get the best out of everyone, leading to the masterpieces that were Kaiba and Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei. He really is one of the most talented directors out there.

Kick Heart was incredibly silly, so don’t expect the same emotional intensity of is other works, but still his talents really show here and it was a great watch, and it serves as an example of how to do anime right.

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Kyousogiga


Everyone’s taste is different, and that’s a wonderful thing because that allows us to have so many different forms of media that all aim toward their own niche. My blog is obviously written from the perspective of my own taste, and even when a show doesn’t cater to it (which is nearly always), I love getting worked up a bit about what if the show did get everything right. That’s why there is no one “best series” out there.

A show that I really didn’t have anything to say against, that really seemed to cater exactly to someone with my tastes, is Kyousogiga. Seriously, to me, that show was perfect and it hit every right note.

This series is really well made: the animation is consistently good, with very few moments of weaknesses. The series looks really good, but that can be said for a lot of series this season. What the animators also did however, was that they made the faces of the characters incredibly expressive, more than any other show that aired alongside it. The variety is great, and the camera always knows how to capture them in the most genuine ways. The way in which they’re able to keep this up for more than 10 episodes shows that this was a series made with a lot of passion.

This is a series that’s deeply rooted in Buddhist themes: not only are there many monks in the series, but also many characters from Buddhist folklore make cameos, the whole world this is based on has many winks here and there to the religion (although Shinto also has its noticeable roots here), combined with plenty of ideas of its own. This all combined leads to a very detailed and imaginative setting that is perfect for a short and whimsical series that can be enjoyed by all ages.

One complaint I’ve hear a lot is that the big conflict of the series isn’t really that big, but that’s something I actually liked a lot. To be vague for the sake of spoilers, Kyousogiga is about the inner turmoil of a family of characters with world-changing powers. The latter may seem serious, but the end resolution is much less dramatic than what you might expect. And I loved that! It’s got plenty of conflict, but for once it isn’t all gloomy. There is really no villain whatsoever, nor anyone who even remotely looks like the stereotypical evil villain who is out there to destroy the world for some superficial reason, even though this might appear to be the case at times. The entire series however is focused on the characters: them coming to terms with their identities and the ones around them. It’s one of the few series that in the end, manages to be epic while keeping the focus on the characters and their issues, without taking any cheap writing-tricks to simplify things near the end. It’s got plenty of touching moment, its just not as grand as what it was made out to be.

I was a long-time fan of this series, so obviously I’m biased. The creators actually managed to incorporate the OVAs into the series and integrated them seamlessly, so you do not need to watch anything before starting the TV-series, aside from episode 05 of the second OVA, and even that isn’t really necessary. This series makes use of vague storytelling: not everything is told or stated explicitly, but you’re also expected to think a bit for yourself and piece things together, and it does that in an intelligent way, rather than what you usually see where the creators obviously ran out of time (this series is also perfectly paced, not too slow nor too fast).

If you want to know whether this series is for you or not, ask yourself the question of what you want to watch. If the answer comes close to a series which excels at bringing animation, music, story, characters, setting, and all together flawlessly, then by all means give this a chance. If you’re looking for complexity or grandeur, or something mundane though, then there are better choices.
One-Sentence Review: Lots of love and passion
Suggestions:
Mahou Shoujotai
Strange Dawn
Ooedo Rocket

Posted on 13 December 2013 with categories: Anime Reviews

Noucome! You do not want to know how long I have been waiting for a series like this. More than half a decade, at the very least. Finally a series comes along and puts the incredibly overused harem genre in its place. And it actually does it well. Thank you!

So to elaborate: the harem genre is one of the worst genres in anime, and it has been so for about a decade now. The worst part is the sheer amount of series that have been made of it. They give anime a bad name and the vast majority of them just completely sucks. Over the years of course, enough attempts at parodies have appeared.

The problem with these parodies was that they weren’t really parodies. They’re just harem shows with their tongue in their cheek. When you have this mentality though, you only make things worse: you’re not funny, and the tongue in the cheek is just an excuse to put in even less effort into your writing because any flaws can be overlooked this way. A lot of parodies make this mistake and just adhere to the things they’re trying to make fun of, and with the harem genre this resulted into one giant mess. The only successful series so far probably was Ben-To, but that was just a really well executed series first and foremost.

Noucome though, goes all the way. This series finally aims to highlight the stupidity in the harem genre, and it finally aims to really make everything about it look ridiculous to show what so many series nowadays are getting away with. It finally takes the usual tropes like the quiet girl, the ditzy girl, the energetic girl, the student council, and with some great jokes and its premise shows how bad these things are. The protagonist is wonderful in fully acknowledging what a horrible person he is while this show keeps finding ways for him to enact generic harem scenes, and take them to the ridiculous. For that effort alone, I applaud this series. Because it has a lot of flaws, unfortunately.

Like most series, this series does lack an editor. The writers have great ideas, but other ideas are just plain bad. For example, everything about the main female lead (the one who falls from the sky) just doesn’t work: where all other characters are meant to highlight the flaws of their stereotypes, she’s just the generic dog-like girl with no brains and a huge appetite that we’ve seen millions of times before. She gets old really fast.

Second, it’s unfortunate to see that the writers can’t keep up their wit for the entire run of the series. With only 10 episodes, this is delightfully short (a comedy really does not need to be long!), but even then the second half has a few bad episodes, and especially the last arc is a pool episode that, while still containing some good jokes, is also full of pointless repeated boob-jokes that don’t go anywhere and an incredibly rushed and hacked ending that doesn’t really resolve anything. It’s a really clear example of the creators not knowing whether there is going to be a sequel, and therefore they try to include a bit of both, resulting in a really big mess of a final episode. It’s a shame, because there really is comedic gold in good endings, yet the amount of comedies that actually go for this can be counted on two hands. Another problem this series has is that everyone and his dog conveniently gets anmnesia when the writers need it the most. It’s passable when done once, but the writers just keep relying on it.

Nevertheless, Noucome first looked to be a series with the worst premise you could imagine. It turned out to be the biggest surprise of the year for me, and especially the first half was pretty much the best way in which such a bad-sounding storyline could ever have been animated. Can we now kill the harem genre. Please?
One-Sentence Review: The first harem parody that actually is a parody. Terrible ending though.
Suggestions:
Ben-To
Touka Gettan (Also not really a parody, but another great example of how to spice up the harem genre)
Aquarion Evol

Posted on 8 October 2013 with categories: Anime Reviews

Normally I try to avoid spoilers with these reviews, but screw it, it’s Pokemon. Pokemon The Origin is a bomb of nostalgia. If you haven’t played Pokemon Red, Blue or Green, then you will not enjoy this one slight bit. This really is made as pure undilluted fanservice for the fans of the first games. Pokemon was the first anime that I watched on Dutch television that made me aware of the existance of anime. Pokemon Yellow was the game that had me hooked, more than any other game when I was younger. So yeah, I am a fan, Pokemon holds an irreplaceable part in my childhood. And biased.

Here’s the interesting bit about this OVA: it’s got so many things that the television-series did really badly. And yet at the same time, it’s got some huge flaws that the TV-series was better at.

Let me start with the positives: finally, after more than a decade of pokemon, we’ve got it: a Pokemon anime without Ash. Team Rocket is present, but Jesse, James and Meowth are completely gone. in fact, the only regular characters who do return are Giovanni, Professor Oak, and Brock and Misty as Gym Leaders. This is what I’ve been waiting for: the pokemon universe is open to so many different stories and interpretations, so it sucks that it always has to be the same thing. I gave up on it years ago for a reason.

Next up: the length. At four episodes of just 20 minutes, finally Pokemon has come in bite-size chunks. The TV-series was absolutely notorious for wasting time, for running for way too long and including so many pointless stories that dilluted the experience. In these four episodes the creators picked the best parts of the game and brought that to animation.

All of the characters, in terms of acting at least improved from what we’ve seen of them: Giovanni actually has a personality, Brock stopped being the womanizer and now is just a gym leader, and all of the pokemon stopped trying to look and sound cute. They behave much more like animals. Heck, there was one brief appearance of Pikachu, and somehow the creators managed to give it mouse noises. That is one thing that I did not expect them to get past the marketing machine.

Now, the bad stuff: you obviously can’t stuff one entire game in four episodes. The solution of the creators is to have Red recap the things that happened off-screen. Great for fans of the game, but anyone not familiar will just scratch their head, wondering what the hell is going on. The only single reason I tolerate this is because it’s pokemon: any other show attempting this would have not worked at all. Adaptations need to stand alone, not give the message of “you need to check out the game/manga/whatever if you want the complete story”.

What also stood out was that this OVA became quite a good example of the difference in adaptations between today and fifteen years ago: adaptations today follow much closer to their original source material. On one hand this creates less obnoxious filler, but on the other hand this also limits the creators when they take over something stupid, or something that doesn’t work. This stands out especially in game adaptations.

There’s something bizarre in the entire game meta being visible in these OVAs, like pokemon have life bars now, they talk about level. People hand out sics with moves on them. Oh, and the battles themselves also become really weird because of this where the main focus is adhering to the game rules, rather than common sense. Take the fight against Brock for example: oh yeah, it may follow the game’s rules and all, but what we saw there was the equivalent of a big tank being drop-kicked by a hamster. Pikachu’s victory against the Onyx actually made sense. You can give the original series a lot of flack, but at least they looked at the different powers and used their heads, whereas in The Origins you have a Charizard whose tail keeps burning even when he’s underwater.

The characters also really suffered, and the creators I think made the explicit decision not to flesh them out or give them much depth. They get all their depth from the nostalgia with the games. This worked particularly strange with Giovanni, who behaves really weird throughout the parts he’s featured in. Heck, he loses to a kid and just abolishes his entire organization, even though losing to a kid just a few minutes earlier did nothing to him. But yeah, this entive OVA fails to make any ounce of sense. The original series has more logic in it than what we saw here.

But here’s the thing: When I first learned of this OVA, I imagined that it would be this big budgetted OVA, or at least something really solid. This was everything but solid, and the animation budget in particular wasn’t that impressive. This leads me to believe that this was a simple experiment: a test to see whether it’s worth it to also cater to the older fans of Pokemon. A pilot, if you will. And that idea, I really support.

Pokemon deserves to have some stories in it that target a different demographic than the usual kids. There are plenty of adult players who would like to see a more mature storyline animated, I would definitely see a market for that. For future experiments, I would really suggest: try sometihng standalone. Don’t depend on the games. Make sense. Take yourself seriously. Have a main character who isn’t a kid. I know that the last point is really stretching it, but hey you made Pikachu talk like a mouse, so apparently you do have freedom.
One-Sentence Review: A nostalgia bomb and not much more; do not watch if you haven’t played Pokemon Red, Blue or Green.
Suggestions:
– Pokemon, The Indigo League Season

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  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 01:59 AM)
    It’s difficult to put into words but essentially while the first game isn’t good, it does work as a tool for introducing and endearing you to the characters. Then Unlimited sets down the rules of the new world. And finally alternative proceeds to kick your ass into next Tuesday.
    That’s sort of why I don’t think it would have the same effect if it was an anime. VNs allow you to get a more personal connection with the characters.
  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 01:55 AM)
    It’s not quite the same. It’s more like there are things in extra which seem insignificant but turn out to play an important role later. It wouldn’t really work the same if you did it in reverse order. Character history is a bit different too as each game is essentially an alternate universe. The character histories in extra are different from those in alternative.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:38 PM)
    And also remember how Darker Than Black had a big jump between the main series and Gemini of the Meteor. They later made a 4 episode OVA that covered the gap, and although you knew the outcome it was still entertaining; or at least more than the Gemini one. There’s merit to non-linear chronology and storytelling, but it is usually very hard to pull. The audience is intrigued by secrets that can later be uncovered, although in anime the pay-off is not always substantial.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:32 PM)
    I don’t know, the audience usually only needs very limited information to figure out dynamics and histories between the characters.
  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:27 PM)
    A 13 episode series would work for the second title unlimited. But Alternative is a pretty long visual novel. You need at least two cours to give it justice. Making extra an OVA could work but you do need it for alternative. But it’s not an optional part of the trilogy. It needs to be read first, so that events later have a greater impact. Personally I am not even sure Muv Luv can even work in another medium.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:12 PM)
    That might compress things, but I think a good screen-writer can fit pretty much any VN in 12-14 episodes (covering just the main route).
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:07 PM)
    @Aidan: then the best solution would’ve been to make a two cour season covering the 2nd and the 3rd book. Have the cours air two anime seasons apart, and in the middle have an offshoot short OVA that covers the 1st book, but has a more harem comedy feel to it. Think Full Metal Panic and Fumuffu.
  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 01:34 PM)
    @bam, Muv Luv has the problem that most of its brillence lies in the third title. But in order for the third title to have the same effect you need to read the first two. Successful or not, I doubt theres animation studio willing to go all in and adapt the full trilogy. There’s also the issue of the first title being a really mediocre harem.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 12:48 PM)
    just a glimpse at the tip of the iceberg of reasons why y’all need a PS4 for the upcoming year:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3Hz8eXWHNY
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 08:09 AM)
    Why they didn’t adapt the original Muv Luv novel or Alternative is a mystery to me. Wasn’t the VN really successful? Whats with these offshoot shows instead of doing the real deal? They are avoiding it for some reason.

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