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13 of 13 episodes seen
Starting off with the positive: The most interesting part of this series was that despite a formulaic harem setting, the show had a motif; a constantly echoed theme that ties all of the characters and stories together. The theme is stray cats, both literally and figuratively. The show examines what it means to be abandoned and alone, what it means to search for and find a place where you can belong, and what it means to have a family and a home. While not as well-developed as it should have been because of the aforementioned trainwrecking, these ideas are woven into the plot and the backstory of every single character. It all starts when Nozomi, a blue-haired emotionless catgirl with abandonment issues, is taken in by protagonist Takumi's older sister. This unofficial adoption forces the other two members of Takumi's harem to reexamine their own lives. Blond tsundere Fumino grew up with Takumi in an orphanage, a victim of non-stop bullying. Even blonder ojou-sama Chise is surrounded by wealth and yes-men who abide by her every word, but the fame of her parents ensures that they are never around and she is always alone.
Despite archetypal definitions, the characters in this series manage to have a little extra depth to differentiate them from other harems. Otome nee-san is far more mature and understanding than her carefree attitude would lead you to believe. Same goes for Kaho, a childhood friend and conniving corporate rival of Chise's, who in one episode fosters a misunderstanding in order to strengthen the bonds between all of the characters. Two seasons prior, AIC made Sora no Otoshimono a successful harem by playing up the fact that the protagonist was an unabashed pervert, proving an interesting contrast to the indifferent or wimpy male leads of most harems. Well, Overrun does the exact opposite here. Not only does Takumi try to weasel his way out of dealing with the girls, but his indecisiveness is actually justified by just how irritating and passive-aggressive the girls actually are. Nozomi is silent as ever, but the writers don't even attempt to push Chise or Fumino as moe or submissive. They are incredibly overbearing and often cause Takumi a lot more trouble than they're worth. The characters are not quite unlikeable (I was fine with them), but it was still interesting to see a show actually get away with making a guy not want his harem.
Speaking of Takumi, for a male lead in a harem, he is surprisingly absent. The show is supposedly about his developing relationship with these girls. Yet even from the first episode, he frequently seems like a supporting character in his own series. Late in the show, there is an episode about the family taking care of a lost young girl (which again allows the characters to reflect on their own thoughts of loneliness) and Takumi doesn't appear at all. This is a mixed blessing but moves toward the positive. One, the show starts with Fumino and Chise already having a crush on Takumi, preventing any contrived or shallow origin story for their romantic interest in him. The chronic absence of the male lead also keeps the girls from fawning all over him like other harems (though like I said, their characterization already prevents this). The girls have a lot of scenes to themselves, where they meditate on their own thoughts and solve their own problems. If you are tired of seeing harem girls waiting around for their "man" to come and fix everything for them, this series can be refreshing occasionally.
Describing the series like this, you'd wonder what went wrong. And here is where we come back to the dreaded switching of directors every episode. The show is a mess. Every individual episode is solid enough, but the series itself lacks coherence and is riddled by random, one-off fillers in the midseason that fail to progress the story at all. This is probably the only harem I've seen where one of the girls full-out confesses to the guy early in the series, in three episodes which build up to a nice climax despite starting off a bit shaky. And yet it takes this build-up and does nothing with it, opting instead to just go for random gag episodes. Four in particular stand out: 4 was from the director of Gag Manga Biyori and jumped the shark for many viewers, as it ignored previous plot developments, and "all" characterization up to that point. If you've seen a lot of harems, you'll know the main guy always has an otaku sidekick to make him look good by comparison. Ever wanted to know what would happen if that idiot otaku ended up being the lead in a show? Well, Overrun gives you the chance to find out in episode 6. I've gotta admit: that otaku's got guts. He literally wastes millions of dollars and still manages to troll everyone. The worst of these fillers was easily 7, which is the season finale of some super robot series. Here, Overrun subverts like no one has ever subverted before. The episode is not a parody, it is played completely straight. There is no humor, it is a completely different series featuring Mayoi Neko's characters, and it's absolutely boring. And then 8 is an episode of Saki. The final four episodes return to the main storyline, but even then: one of them doesn't feature half the cast, and two more juggle the generic school athletic competition plot. The series starts off promisingly, then proceeds to waste just enough time to make sure we don't see the fruits of that progress by the end. It's a shame because by the time the story comes back around, there are quite a few nice, sentimental moments that make you wish it went a bit further.
The technical side of things is a mixed bag as well. In the visual department, the character designs (both male and female) are quite nice to look at. The artwork manages to keep a consistent style across all of the characters. For once, a series finally decides to give characters eye colors that don't match their hair; this complimentary coloring for the female leads is especially nice. Still, with the show constantly cycling through staff, the art suffers from notable inconsistencies across the series. Episode 1 has thinner lining and more shapely clothing, episode 5 has more angular faces and emotive shading, etc. A few episodes (4 & 6) have a lot of off-models, though some may have been deliberate (though it's contested whether it was worth it). For the most part, the art survived the episode transitions better than the storytelling did. The animation is below average and never really on par with the art, but being a comedy series, it doesn't really need to be.
On the sound side: the voice acting is serviceable but as the actors are voicing archetypes, it never goes anywhere beyond the range you'd expect. The OP song is average J-pop but the lyrics really have no rhythm and seem rushed all the way through. On the other hand, the ED has a tropical ring to it and actually sounds quite nice. What background music is present is usually done well. The problem is that there simply isn't enough of it. Entire scenes and large portions of the episodes are completely silent with no music at all. Sometimes it successfully contributes to the atmosphere, but sometimes the lack of music makes unfunny scenes even less funny. Still, the recurring piano theme played during all of the emotional scenes is commendable.
My biggest disappointment with Mayoi Neko is that AIC basically sacrificed the actual adaptation to create a display booth for the talent of the various directors involved. While it may have not been a big deal with just any harem, Overrun seemed to have started off doing just enough differently from the rest of the pack to make me think the show had some potential. The fact that it's based on a light novel series and not the usual ero-manga, and a popular one at that, adds to this notion. If that weren't enough, the more faithful manga adaptation has received near unanimous praise. If you can forgive its faults, there are a lot of nice emotional beats that make it a decent recommendation for sentimental rom-com fans. Otherwise, it's strictly for harem watchers and trainwreck gazers. There is simply no excuse for a show to have so much filler when it has a short run time and a wealth of material to adapt. It feels like I've watched a four or five episode show when the series was slated for twelve. I shouldn't ever feel like that.
EDIT: The Railgun maids get a 10. read more
12 of 12 episodes seen
When So Ra No Wo To was first announced on the winter season roster, I wasn't planning on watching it. Despite reading the plot synopsis, I did not think it was a 'moeblob in the army' kind of story. That only came later when many, many people decided to put labels on it. Still, I wasn't inclined to watch the series. That is, until I saw the beautiful concept artwork by Kishida Mel. It was amazing and it made me want to see the series in spite of the much talked about art shift towards moe. (By the way, if anyone knows where I can find more of this art, feel free to tell me as I only have the two widely distributed images.)
I will say it once at the beginning of this review: this is not a moe series. It has moe character designs, it has some familiar character archetypes, but it is not a moe series. There is no pandering sexual material nor is there any outright moe or fanservice outside of episode 8 (if you consider that fanservice). There is a difference between a character like Kanata, who is inexperienced and idealistic because of her youth, and someone like Yui, who is a helpless mess of idiotball. I know that it's easy to be cynical and look down upon anybody who isn't a realistic superman with mature character flaws considering the current state of commercial anime, but if you can't recognize the difference between these two characters, you will probably never be able to enjoy this series.
I was already caught when I watched the first episode. This was the single best premiere of the new season. On the other two hyped up series of the season: Durarara!!'s first episode was only told from the point of view of one character and would need the added perspectives of episode 2 onward to develop it into the great series it is. Dance in the Vampire Bund, on the other hand, went the Haruhi route of having the first episode have little to do with the story arc of the series, instead vying to prove the premise of the existence of it's title species.
Sora no Woto, on the other hand, set up everything in the series from episode 1. Whether you loved or hated the show, very few question the sheer potential and number of possibilities that could spring from the series, especially considering it was anime original material. It set up the characters Rio and Kanata: one, a talented but cold and mature veteran, and the other, a bright and optismistic newcomer. It sets up the wonderous setting: the village of Seize, a quiet town that has become a corner of the habitable earth, and the world itself. And what a world it is.
The settting of Sora no Woto is a character in and of itself, and much of the intrigue of the first few episodes is trying to discover just what happened to the people that live here. Being a slice of life series, the series portrays the extraordinary in the mundane. Something terrible has happened to this world. There is no life left in the oceans. Entire species' have been wiped out, and humans aren't doing too well themselves. French and English objects are common place, and Japanese is a forgotten language. Technology that we would marvel as futuristic is considered ancient. In the first episode, we see something deep in a river that could not be explained by anything present in our world. Everything we find normal are leftovers of an era gone by.
And yet, the characters themselves are so fantastically ordinary. Despite the possibility and potential for this show to jump off into the land of fantasy or science fiction in the very next episode, there is a realism that permeates this series. This is no dark, dystopic vision, despite all the characters referencing a near apocalypse in the recent past. There is no police state, nor is there a heavy presence of the military. In fact, there are only five members of the military in the entire town. Two of them are women, three of them of are kids, all of them care little for war and all that comes with it. And watching the members of this village go through their daily lives, be it a glass-blower, a shopkeeper, a pair of orphans and their young guardian, or an elderly woman living in solitude in the mountains, you get the feeling that this is what it would be like. This is how people try to move on. Despite the fact that there are ongoing peace talks, there is no talk of peace in Seize, nor is talk of war. This place is so far away from civilization, you wonder why the military even have an outpost here. Then you realize that just a few miles from this town where war "could never happen," there is barren, empty place known as No Man's Land. And something terrible happened there.
When watching this series, you really get the impression that the writers and producers have done an immense amount of research. There is a strange mix of culture and history in this world, with art and architectural references abound. The story takes place in a small European town, and the architecture, landscape, artifacts, even the plantlife are portrayed correctly. There were no corners cut when they were creating the atmosphere of this series. While the animation is ordinary, it is the vivid and detailed artwork that make this series memorable. From the aging suburban buildings, to the fresh and maintained farmlands, to the lifeless desert with "modern" skyscrapers peeking out of the sand, to the untamed woods, the beautiful snowfields, and the distant mountains covered with deteriorating ruins of the futuristic technology of the old days. Everything is coloured and detailed wonderfully, and sprinkled with the anthropologic evidence of the time of war. This place was once important. Now it is not.
The show has great sound, period. Being a series where music is a big part of the plot, it is to be expected. The sound is crisp and clean, voice acting is top notch and stays in character, and the original musical composition is much more akin to "traditional" European classical music as opposed to your standard, synthetically orchestrated background music. A French vocal piece, the orchestra work at the end of episode 10, the music over the end credits of the final episode, and the numerous trumpet solos and renditions of "Amazing Grace" are some of the highlights. The opening sequence is visually stunning, with a very aged, mythological feel, and a retelling of a not-so-much-a-fairy-tale story you will hear in the first episode. The ending is a catchy song with visuals that once again serve to remind us that this series is not about moe caricatures. It is about a group of people that share bonds, experience hardships, laugh with and criticize each other. Friendship is a very important theme in this series.
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(For the remainder of this review, I will be discussing the plot, characters, and themes of the series, and there will be MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS after the break, including events from the finale episode. So, for all of you that haven't yet watched the series, I really encourage you to watch it now. If you still don't plan on it, I encourage you to read the rest of the review.)
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When I started this series, I had to admit that the characters were the weakest part of this story. The supporting and minor characters were all very well done and helped to create a rich environment, but the main characters weren't so fortunate. They were all likable, but you couldn't really deny that they were cliche, sprung from the regular anime archetypes and lacking the depth that I'd really want to see in this show.
However, Sora no Woto managed to subvert the standard cliches that befall this type of series. The characterization is archetypical -- that is undeniable. But the depth and development that these characters get is not. I attribute a lot of this success to the way the series structured its episodes. Like another currently airing series, Durarara!!, this show has character centric episodes. Episode 1 and 8 are Kanata, 2 and 9 are Kureha, 3 and 10 are Rio, 4 and 11 are Noel, 7 is Filicia, 5 is about the youngsters of our group developing a bond that will stick forever, 6 is about the town of Seize and its secrets, and 12 is about the very world itself. Now while the plot progresses from episode to episode, if you were to watch, say, episode 4 followed by episode 11, you would see all the pieces of Noel's character come together. The question she poses to Kanata in episode 4 regarding the tank and what evil could come of it now makes sense because she is looking to make up for the atrocities she made possible in the past.
More examples. Look at episode 2 and then 9. Kureha's speech about being self-sufficient, as well as that small flashback of her being powerfully embraced by Rio in 2 are given their background in 9. She needs to be independent because she is an orphan and grew up having to do everything herself, and lectures a little brat about it. She looks up to Filicia and Rio as her mother and father, respectively. Look at episode 3 and 10, where we see a young Rio looking up to Iliya, and how she avoids the townsfolk and tries to deal with thing herself. Now take episode 10, where her relationship and responsibilities as Iliya's sister are revealed, as well as the fact that she has been running away from them all her life. Episode 3 is titled "Rio Runs."
The only character that doesn't really fall into this pattern is Kanata herself. But I think we can all see by now that Kanata is a little special. While Kureha constantly derides her, she also becomes her best friend. While Rio smirks at her naivety, she also wishes she were a bit like her. Noel is so out of it that she already considers Kanata someone to look up to, or at least sleep on. And Filicia of course, with her maturity veiled behind a decieving but honest smile, already knew all of this. Kanata is a fool by there standards. She hasn't gone through much hardship. She lived on farm, happily with both of her parents. She is a kid and she knows it. She wasn't forced to grow up quickly like the other four girls of this series. She is average is just about every way. And that is precisely why she changes her companions so much.
Another reason why this series succeeds is the sheer attention to detail that it bestows upon the characters and plot. In episode 7, when Filicia runs out of the room, Noel stops Rio to go after her herself, telling Rio that she is the only one that understands Filicia's trauma. Compare this to her later mental breakdown in episode 11. During Filicia's flashback to the war, we see the reflection of a giant, unholy wing in the mirrors of a high rise building. At the end of episode 7, when the girls are sending spirits down the river, Noel sends no one because their numbers are too many to count. (Wow, a lot of these happened in episode 7.) Episode 10 featured the story of a woman living alone, waiting for the man she loved to return to her. In any other series, this would have either been a filler stretched for the length of an episode, or shoehorned into a regular episode clumsily. But in Sora no Woto, it is brilliantly used as a foil for Rio's own feelings, and both stories are poetically resolved by the end of the twenty minute episode. I must applaud the director and the writers for the skillful execution of stories like these.
It isn't just the characters. While you could say that the plot of this series was pretty simple in the present, the scope and amount of thought that went into detailing this world is immense. This series developed a beautiful mythology of its world, with concepts such as the angels, the fossil in the river, the ghosts in the abandoned school, the Takemikazuchi, the old era tanks and technology, the security system with Japanese characters out in the woods, No Man's Land, the Invisible Reaper, the political discourse going on in the capital, events of the war, and historical figures such as Princess Iliya, Desert Claus, the Demon of Vingt, and the Witch of Helvetia. Where did the fossil's head go? Were angels supernatural or extraterrestrial? Why is Japanese a forgotten language? With all this technology, why did the military use trumpets to communicate? Was it because of an A.I. virus or something else? The amount of history and cultural depth is awe-inspiring, and the open-endedness blurs the lines between science, fantasy, and reality. When combined with the beautiful visuals and emotion-filled music, it makes for a religious experience.
There were a lot of mysteries in this series, especially regarding the setting and what happened in the past. Those were the main reasons I couldn't wait to watch a new episode every week. This show didn't answer any of them. And by the end of the last episode, I didn't care.
"You have suffered enough."
Ultimately, Sora no Woto is a story of redemption and the constant hum of Amazing Grace hammers that home. It is the story of a group of people who appear cute and harmless on the outside, but are quickly shown to be haunted by a past they can not escape. Much like the world they live in. And by the end of this series, they all come full circle. At the end of episode 11, I thought there was simply too much to be resolved. But sure enough, all of the threads that were left dangling throughout the course of the series were woven together into a beautiful fabric. And that was the real miracle of this series, not Kanata's trumpet-playing at the end.
Noel wanted to be forgiven for the lives she took as the Witch of Helvetia, and she is, even moreso by a solidier of the nation she massacred. Kureha played the "bad guy" military realist all her life because she was an only child, despite having her entire family. Her mom was cheerfully aloof while dealing with her own problems in secret, her dad was the only girl she looked up to but she was long gone now, and her two sisters were both airheads, one having a reason for it and the other just being that way. And at the end, she breaks down, finally admitting that she doesn't want to be alone anymore. And she is embraced by her family, who were always standing with her the entire time. Filicia wants to put an end to war once and for all so that she is the last person that has to watch all her friends die before their very eyes, and she takes the first step in ensuring that future. Rio avoided following in her sister's footsteps all her life, but in the end, she does what she must, having been inspired by Kanata and the rest of her new sisters. And the reward is far beyond anything she ever imagined. Kanata's goal of learning how to play the trumpet quickly becomes synonomous with saving the very world itself. And she does.
"Even if no one else forgives you, I will."
Aisha says these words to Noel in the finale. But after watching the whole series and taking a step back to soak it all in, I believe these words are referring to the world itself. The people of this world have experienced a very terrible thing: a war of unimaginable proportion, so widescale that nearly everything they held dear is now gone. The people of Seize try to move on with their lives, but they can't. The soldiers don't wish to fight, yet they still do. The reality is that no one has moved on. The peace talks are deteriorating. War is on the horizon despite how quiet the world has become. Because the people of this world have not forgiven themselves.
The ending of Sora no Woto was not a miracle. As Kanata has stated time and time again throughout the series: She is just a girl who wants to play the trumpet, to communicate people's thoughts through music. She is just the messenger. And as she plays her trumpet atop the Takemikazuchi, to the armies of both Helvetia and and the Holy Roman Empire, she is doing just that. All throughout the series, she is both complimented and condoned for her innocence. And yet in the end, it is because of her pure heart that she realizes the message first: she loves this world. As does everyone else, but they have forgotten. By tragedy, loss, heartbreak, and the false idea that they could move on without forgiving themselves, they have forgotten.
A big reason why I love this show is because it reminds me of two series that I hold very dear: Haibane Renmei and The 08th M.S. Team. Both are series with heavy slice of life elements, yet manage to explore philosophical and war themes. After seeing the first episode, I knew that this series would start off as a happy-go-lucky slice of life but would eventually tread deep into darker territory. The opening sequence and the foreshadowing of the girls reliving the myth of the Fire Maidens made it even more likely. By around episode 4, I learned that this series was done by the director of Elfen Lied, at which point I had no doubt there would be a tragic ending. I thought this series would have the world reunite against the revived angel, where war would return with numerous losses. Eventually, the five girls would have to make a tremendous sacrifice and end up becoming the very Maidens they looked up to.
However, Sora no Woto gave me an ending I never knew I wanted. It was humanity itself that was its own worst enemy. It fought a war, but at what cost? It was humanity that felt the guilt of the old ages, and it was humanity that was unable to find redemption. When Yumina began to retell the legend of Fire Maidens, it was an emotional experience. The moment I saw Aisha as the angel, I realized for the first time what this show was tring to accomplish. I knew it wasn't going to come back to the angel fossil or any of the other questions they raised, because they weren't important anymore. The girls do indeed make their own Odyssey-like epic and become like the Maidens of the legend but not like I thought they would. They weren't burned at the stake like the Maidens either -- humanity has become much more forgiving.
To me, Sora no Woto is the story of a girl who makes the world remember what they had all along: forgiveness. Whose message was it? I can't answer that question. Nevertheless, it was a sound in the sky, and it was heard by five girls who, after finding peace in their own redemption, take it upon themselves to share that message with the rest of the world. But maybe that's a miracle all by itself. read more
3 of 3 episodes seen
I found this to be an interesting and likable OVA to one of my favorite anime drama series. There is a huge shift in the tone of the series, which explains the polarizing views of this mini-series. While the original Kimi ga Nozomu Eien was a very tragic affair, Akane Maniax turns into a parody of old big robot series from the past few decades, complete with a slapstick new character serving as the primary focus.
I can't say much for this OVA in terms of its technical aspects. It was fairly hard for me to track down a decent quality version of it, and one with dvd quality was nigh impossible. If I were to compare, the animation about as good as the original KGNE series but not as good as the ~Next Season~ ova. There are some differences, but this is more attributable to the change in art style to reflect the comedic nature of the mini-series rather than worse animation.
For sound, all of the voice actors did a good job. As this is a three episode epilogue rather than a full blown story arc, there isn't as wide a range of material to work with, but the voice actors put in the necessary emotions. The opening song was cute and similar to a lot of high school comedy animes, as was the ending. The background music was not at the same level as KGNE or ~Next Season~, but they also had much more dramatic material to score.
Coming into this series, I had read a lot of reviews calling it stupid, strange or pointless and wasn't really sure what to expect. For a time, I wasn't even sure if I was going to watch it. Ultimately, I decided to have a go for completionist's sake. I'm glad I watched.
I'm not new to tragedy in fiction. I've seen a fair share of depressing films and series, and read numerous works of literature with stories far darker than the relationship drama presented in Kimi ga Nozomu Eien. Yet, for some reason this series affected me very deeply, particularly the last episode where Takuyumi and Haruka decide to never see each other again. In the last few minutes of the show, we see that Takuyumi and Mitsuki are living together while Akane and Haruka have moved on to pursue their dreams. It was nice, but I questioned if any of these four people were truly happy.
It bothered me for a long time. The people in this epilogue had experienced a great tragedy that led to them parting ways forever, and it upset me. The ~Next Season~ ova did not provide me the closure I wanted. While it was nice, it ultimately felt like a sweet dream that was never meant to be. Just thinking about KGNE was enough to make to upset.
That is when I finally saw Akane Maniax. While it is a slapstick comedy, this ova was exactly what I was looking for. This is the tale of Akane dealing with the aftermath of Takayuki leaving her family forever. This is the story of Akane told from Gouda's perspective. Every scene with Akane, you are shown how she is understanding but ultimately hurt by what happened in KGNE. You can't help but think Haruka feels similarly despite her absence for most of the show.
While you can dismiss a lot of the mecha battles in the series as childish and over-the-top, there was actually a lot of meaning to them. What Gouda sees in those battles is what is happening in Akane's heart. The enemy pilots are quite familiar... and while Gouda doesn't know who these people are, he can appreciate the scars that they've left Akane and, in the process of trying to court her, he decides to heal those scars.
There really isn't a whole lot of plot in this series to spoil, so I'll leave it at that. What I've meant to say during this review is: KGNE left Haruka and Akane completely broken, and then showed a future where they had moved on in life, but not necessarily in spirit. At the end of this OVA, I finally felt that Akane had really overcome her sadness and doubts. With that, Haruka could as well. I see now that at the end of KGNE, rather than doing the best they can in the wake of their unfortunate lives, they truly are happy. So, I thank this ova, which in the strangest and most unusual way, put my heart at ease. read more