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26 of 26 episodes seen
I recently re-watched the show and felt compelled to write a retrospective/review of the series. While watching Jin, Mugen and Fuu traipse around 19th century Japan getting into ridiculous adventures, I realised Shinichirô Watanabe’s follow up to Cowboy Bebop is one of the most subversive animes ever made. Taking a staple genre, dressing it up in anachronism, but continually tackling subjects often avoided by the medium.
It takes 25 episodes until a character literally says “I was born in the wrong era.” Champloo is basically saying Japan’s lofty samurai era was actually a shit place to live for common people like us actually thank you very much.
It’s a divisive show that tested the patience of many viewers, drove others away entirely after a few episodes, and frustrated people who were too used to watching a plot move characters forward for 26 episodes. Champloo doesn’t even have characters who move the plot forward. The hook of how the three disparate characters end up travelling together through Edo period Japan is just that, it’s a hook to draw you in.
Samurai Champloo is about, and also not about, three characters hunting a samurai who smells of sunflowers. There’s an episode late into the series which features two street gangs having a graffiti battle across town, and though somewhat amusing also served no benefit towards the journey of the three characters. So if you hop into any forum thread you’ll see a multitude of complaints about it. However, the point of the episode is the same as the theme running throughout the entire show: people from a bygone era rebelling against authority and social norms in a way 21st century people do: through counter-culture.
I’ve gained a new appreciation for this show. It’s been so so long since I saw it, but rewatching it I realise how the story is about how incompatible Tokugawa era Japan is with our way of life; all the things we take for granted were rare luxuries back then. This is an obvious fact for anyone with a remote understanding of Japanese history, but still, the show rams it home with stark contrasts. Each episode highlights a 21st century aspect of our lives, a form of freedom (creative, sexual, geographical, etc) that characters in the 19th century yearned for despite the odds.
It’s set in an era ruled by rigid order, social rules and hierarchies. Stifling to the point of causing grief among the downtrodden populace. Yet a populace we should not treat as foreign aliens. The show asks us to empathise with them; they were just like us. Some of them had our modern spirit and ultimately struggled to exist in such a society as a result. Our heroes are a ronin, vagabond, and an orphan. Fighting against their era’s rules with a modern spirit.
One of the things I love about this show is how the three characters hate each other for the majority of the 26 episodes, but their hatred gives away inch by inch. They initially try to break apart, to run away from each other, but situations conspire to brig them back together, until a turning point where they actively make a choice to stick together, grudgingly recognising that they are of the same fiery rebellious soul. This is infinitely more satisfying than characters who automatically stick together from the outset. Another theme of Champloo is that travelling a journey with strangers can bring you together like family.
Champloo is more known for its scenes that are juxtaposed with modern quirks such as people beatboxing to humorous and surreal effect, and scene transitions that look like a DJ playing with their deck.
Episode topics try to cover every area that is barely explored by other samurai-era anime that are more concerned with traditional ‘fight evil’ plots (or even movies for that matter) from the prevalence of the yakuza co-existing with samurai, the tragedy of women forced into prostitution to pay off their husbands’ debts, human trafficking in the art world, existence of homosexuality, persecution of Christians and Ainu, and graffiti gangs with too much time on their hands. There’s even a hilarious baseball game with members of an American expedition that predates Commodore Perry’s by a few years.
Champloo features one of the best soundtracks ever, brought to you by Nujabes, whose life was tragically cut short in 2010. Instrumental hip hop might bring to your mind a certain perception of what to expect, but the soundtrack is a mixture of traditional beats with Japanese influence, floating ephemeral sounds constantly conjure a feeling of melancholy, or ‘mono no aware’, the fleeting transience of things.
The appeal of the show is ‘style over substance’, however that is a great discredit to what Champloo accomplishes. All the modern quirks in historical context are not just there to make the show stand out visually. The show is about entertaining this idea, this hope, that even back in Edo era Japan there were open-minded people fighting for creativity, individuality and basic human rights. Sure, most of them didn’t last long, but they didn’t die without a fight. Banzai! read more
1 of 1 episodes seen
Goro doesn't deserve to be making Ghibli movies just yet. Maybe gaining more experience doing other things would prepare him for that special of roles, but instead what we're left with is his experimentations and learning process stamped with the Ghibli logo. It's diluting the brand. His two films aren't even pandering to mainstream audiences; that’s certainly not a complaint that can be directed at him, but his films are just directorial missteps that don't utilise the tools of animation to their best potential. It’s as if after the drubbing he got for Earthsea he thought to himself “I’ll direct a story set in 60’s Japan, the critics will like that!”
Earthsea was a disappointment on every level. There are some detractors of that opinion, but the general consensus from viewers is that Earthsea is far low on the list of Ghibli films you should watch. From Up On Poppy Hill at least has some modicum of charm and old school aesthetic about it that keeps it from being a complete failure however. The last thirty minutes are the best with more pace, urgency and melodramatic moments, but it’s a slog to get there.
The animation is not special in any way other than bringing to life 1960's Japan with typical Ghibli detail. The story is a simple coming-of-age tale that lacks any life or bite. There is a revelation that sparks things up somewhat, but even that is ultimately diffused. Hayao himself co-wrote the script with the screenwriter of Earthsea, and I like to imagine he tried to make the clubhouse scenes lively in order to bring life to the story.
The music, like everything else with this film, is inoffensive and bland. Joe Hisaishi is not in sight. There's just nothing here to latch onto and keep in your memory as something to return to. I can recall numerous scenes and musical motifs of previous Ghibli films, but from this all I will recall is the main character pulling up a flag. There are no creative scene compositions, no efficient editing tricks; no passion in the bringing of this tale. The last thirty minutes had developments that could have made a better film by themselves, in a manner similar to Grave of the Fireflies.
When Hayao made Ponyo, you could see his childlike passion for the project in the bluray extras, and you can see it in the work itself, it's bold and full of life, and contains the most amazing depiction of sea waves I've seen in animation. Goro needs to ask himself why he's a director, and for our sake he needs to find the answer on his own time, and not on Ghibli's dime. read more
1 of 9 chapters read
I didn't know whether to give it a 1 for making me feel disgusting, or a 10 for the balls of getting it published. I settled for a generous score due to its hilarious climax.
To analyse it would take a thousand words and make many assumptions about the author. The premise does it no justice. To talk about it more would spoil it. Therefore I have no option but to let veteran seasoned manga readers of MAL do the talking:
'...that was fucked up, man.' - idklol
'Omfg. What the hell was that?!' - Kimia
'that was awesome' - Lith
'Hahaha, what the hell.' - Raidanzoup
'after getting to the animal part I thought it can't get any worse but man was I wrong :/' - Leffy
'God, I think I'm having suicidal feelings right now... fuck, that was the darkest shit I've ever read' - gomu_ninguen
'what-the-fuck' - Rei-Rei
'Cried...' - Pineappledishes-
'Holy shit.' - HooHiraiBunny
Indeed. read more
36 of 36 episodes seen
Macross is the sexier version of Gundam, the carefree serenading romantic. There is an air of enthusiasm and happy-go-lucky charm to its characters that the Gundam franchise rarely ever allowed on its unlucky downtrodden crew. Whereas Gundam grinds Amuro and company through the emotional wringer from episode one, Macross lets Hikaru and gang regularly let off steam in the interior city residing within the Macross itself.
This small city is the show's unique selling point. Whereas most other shows, that might have civilian refugees crammed aboard a ship, will ignore them except when they riot, Macross instead gives them equal focus. They spend so long on the ship that they are forced to adapt and eventually get accustomed to living in an artificial city that incidentally ended up in the bowels of the ship in the most amazing way possible.
Macross is filled with amazing action sequences. Amazing simply for the year it was aired in, the effort and skill of the animators to bring us visually excellent setpieces, featuring awesome-but-underused-in-anime fighter jets, is admirable indeed. The major highlight is an early scene involving a falling jet racing to catch up with a falling human, the camera revolving around the pair seamlessly. The scene is indicative of the ambition of the show.
Gundam is about technology. Whoever has the superior technology wins. Macross is about love. The quintessential emotion that can bring peoples of all race, colour and creed together. Of course these anime are about other things too, but these aspects are at the core.
Macross focuses on other things that mecha fans will have missed in Gundam, such as the affect of media and celebrity in wartime, the clash of two different cultures, and as mentioned before, the society that exists within a ship on the run.
Macross is probably more famous now for its music than its war hijinks, and this first series shows that it was all part of the master plan from the beginning rather than something that evolved later on in other parts of the franchise. The character of Minmay will probably annoy most viewers with her witless selfish ways, but she is the epitome of a teen idol and acts like one. Her cousin Kaifun is the one most deserving of your unbridled hatred, one of the biggest scumbags in all of anime! But anyway, back to Minmay. The role she plays in the story is important despite her ditzy manner, and alongside Hikaru, a main character in a mecha show who is more average and easier to relate to than most others. Although he does for some reason, get increasingly dumber as the show progresses.
Amazingly enough Hikaru is not the best pilot in the story either, and neither is one of the manliest characters in the anime medium: Roy Focker. A man who lives up to his name, let’s just leave it at that. Genre stereotypes are subtlely subverted in Macross. For example there’s a staple bespectacled genius character, Max, but he's not a cliché, he’s not unapproachable and coldly analytical. He actually has a normal personality and is even a hit with the ladies. Macross characters are a genuine treat, much like everything else with this show, always keeping you on your toes. And a disclaimer: half the cast ARENT killed off in the last episode, how refreshing! Not only do characters unexpectedly die in this show, they unexpectedly live too!
What is great about Macross is that it doesn’t heap misery on its characters constantly, but when it does, the characters move on quickly. It never feels like a copout, they're still affected by the changes around them, whenever comrades die for example, but we're thankfully spared five episodes of them moping around like stroppy teens.
Instead we get a ship populated by a plucky group of women who belong more on a playground than the most important part of a warship. These women gossip away and yell out "yada!" when things don’t go their way. At one point the ship gets a new barrier system, called Pinpoint Barrier and it consists of a room somewhere in the ship operated by a couple women who have to roll balls around their table in order to move a mobile barrier around the ship's exterior to absorb enemy attacks. Yes, it really is as ridiculous as it sounds, you can only laugh at the image of cute girls rolling balls furiously in the middle of an attack, yelling "yada!"
Macross is entertainment through and through. It's not going for weighty philosophy, but at the same time, it decorates its carefree nature with worthy topics and doesn’t so much explore them as it acknowledges them. Midway through the show the ugliness of politics, discrimination and the sacrifices that must be made rears its head leading to dramatic, yet ultimately always uplifting stuff.
It's not perfect, the second arc towards the end of the show is a bit of an extended epilogue that may feel like it drags to some viewers, but I appreciate how it resolved dangling plot points and developed characters more than the entire first arc. The love triangle between Hikaru, Minmay and officer Hayase heats up and leads to an excellent climax, and it’s all the more beautiful because the anime doesn’t manipulate you into rooting for one person by making the other a complete bitch, you can see why Hikaru would want to be with either of them.
The art is the show's biggest flaw, it's not pretty. Character designs are fine, but sometimes their eyes go wonky and you wonder if the animators were high on something at the time. The animation itself though as mentioned earlier, constantly surprises you in random episodes with how seamless the 'camera' revolves around setpieces. Though in the second arc the animation suffers and sometimes resorts to US 80's cartoon level quality, but thankfully the attention to characterisation makes up for it.
The music is obviously awesome, and I'm not even talking about Minmay's pop ditties, but the actual score soundtrack is very memorable and funky.
I really loved the characters of Macross and their voice acting, it's a very different approach to the Gundam template when it could have been a simple rip-off. I want to give it 10 out of 10, but will show restraint as the antagonist race weren’t developed well, even if their origin was very interesting. Macross’s strength revolves around just a handful of characters who get ample characterisation and attention, and both a perfect ending to the series and perfect beginning to the franchise. read more
Sep 30, 2009Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu Gaiden: Senoku no Hoshi, Seno... (Anime) add
24 of 24 episodes seen
The setup, as fans already know, is epic defined. Having had his sister sold to the empire's ruler by his deadbeat dad, Reinhard has vengeance in mind, but coupled with his genius intellect, it’s a vengeance that spans the galaxy, rather than through crosshairs via an assassination. This man wants to dispose of his nemesis in as grand fashion as possible, to not only save his sister, but to ensure it's not a suicide mission, to prevent his tragedy from ever occurring again to any other. To do this he needs to usurp the ruler himself. His personal desire is dressed in a noble mission of reformation, which adds to the fascination of Reinhard's character.
Prequels are generally designed to be viewed after the work they're meant to be set before, this way the viewer can gleefully spot foreshadowing moments and discover insight into characters they think they already know. A Hundred Billion Stars OVA is no different in this regard. Though lacking in any big revelations for the first 13 episodes, it is admittedly more of an exercise in filling-in-the-blanks. However that's not to say there's nothing of worth here, because although the first 13 episodes have not much bearing on the main story of the saga, there is still quality writing involved when it comes to character and dialogue.
Seeing how Reinhard began his military career and observing him in the front-lines of the war, dealing with numerous death threats from pissed off aristocrats and embarking on a murder mystery as a member of Military Police is all very entertaining. It's like constantly dodging bullets, what could have been terrible filler that betrays everything that came before, ends up being a work that is in honour of its predecessor, a supplement; more nourishment for the fans and viewers of anime in general.
The anime is interestingly, and successfully, split into segments. There are a total of four arcs of varying lengths, each with its own chapter numbering. This avoidance of one long narrative is successful because it prevents the anime from hitting slumps where the TV writers make up meaningless 'filler' type material to stretch the show to its allocated episode count. Instead we simply jump from one point in Reinhard's life to the next; a greatest hits of his youth, if you will. His first battle for survival on a harsh planet, a stint in the Military Police, and then what we're really itching for: a full-on naval/planetary battle against the Alliance with cameos galore. This last arc is what justifies the OVA.
But ok, I just lied about the anime avoiding hitting a slump. The third Kircheis-centred arc is extremely boring, clichéd, has the weakest link to the franchise (replace all the character names and you've more or less got a different show) and is populated by irritating characters. Reinhard has about five minutes screen-time, which kind of defeats the purpose of the OVA. It is the only time I have been bored in the entire LotGH viewing experience, and that includes the Golden Wings movie so that's saying something!
Back to that last arc though, the longest segment and the one to introduce big revelations and become something more than an exercise in filling in blanks. It’s a character study that reveals aspects of a few characters and their relationships to others that we only had a hint of in the main OVA. It cements their mythology for good. What you thought you knew about them before isn’t turned on its head, its instead unabashedly celebrated in this arc, and even better that every aspect of the arc is of the highest quality. The direction, visuals, pacing, and plot, all superb. The biggest antagonist of the arc is a guy you really hate, but for all the right reasons, because he is generally a well-rounded character with intelligence and motive.
The animation isn’t drastically different from the main OVA, but being that it was produced in 1998 it's smoother; with nice flowing hair moments. Character designs and scene composition is slightly higher of the standard the original OVA set. It’s all acceptable and does the job. It’s not going to win a lot of awards for its looks, but the story and characters are so strong, it doesn’t need to. The music also remains similar to the main OVA, all timeless classical bombast.
What this OVA also asserts is that Reinhard can’t form relationships with other human beings unless he is deemed, or feels, superior to them. This fact is extremely fascinating about the character, and the fact that he's so damn charismatic and honourable means we simply accept this narcissistic character-flaw of his, whereas in any other anime we'd feel repelled against the character.
Sometimes it’s easy to be swayed by Reinhard's superior attitude and presence, it’s easy to forget his struggle against the nobility. The OVA reminds us that the character had to fight his entire youth and early career against an entire system, a way of life. And this OVA contributes to his mythos in showing just how difficult and dangerous it was to ascend the ranks by dodging bullets, persecution, intrigue and insults to his dear sister all the way. It makes him one of anime's greatest characters because he didn’t have everything given to him, he had to earn it.
He also had to earn our respect and admiration via a great voice actor, character design and most importantly characterisation, all of which are in full force in this OVA. I give it a 9 and not a 10 because you need to see the original OVA to complete the experience, and plus one arc wasn’t up to standard, but for all fans of LotGH this OVA is essential viewing. read more
158 of 158 chapters read
Featuring one of the most ridiculously tense and violent games of catch-ball ever, Stone Ocean is even better than part 5 of the JoJo saga. If Golden Wind was the zenith of the JoJo franchise, then Stone Ocean is the apex. Ok, they both mean the same thing but you get the idea.
Starring the daughter of the stoic, bland, yet incredibly powerful Jotaro, the story has jumped a few years to 2011, Florida, USA. Jolyne is in a 'pinch' as the Japanese love to say. She's on her way to a sprawling prison complex off of Florida, she's been framed, she's starting to hear voices in her head and a string just appeared out her finger for no apparent reason. Shit just got real.
The JoJo saga has featured a vast array of unique characters and abilities, but at its core it’s about a very simple thing. The violent clash of two bloodlines: Joestar versus Dio and his minions. Stone Ocean is no different, albeit lacking Dio himself it still carries his influence still plaguing the unlucky Joestar bloodline. Its free of the overt humour of Part 4 and after part 5's unbelievably powerful abilities, Araki himself was in a pinch, where does he go next?
So what better way to get out of it by allowing more females into his saga and using a claustrophobic locale brimming with lots of potential. A maximum security prison complex halved between females on one side and males on the other. Jolyne is thrust into a violent world with no allies, forced to learn the rules of prison society, like how to bribe people just to make a phone call.
The abilities are still named after famous artists and bands, but they're so much more offbeat and WTF-based than usual. You have to love it. The imagination on display in the JoJo saga constantly hits you in surprising ways, and you're usually left in awe at Hirohiko Araki's imagination, pitting two veteran stand-users against a newly born baby for example. You will be beaming or pumping your fist into the air at how Araki can sustain so much tension and danger to the characters, pushing them to the very limits and then pulling them out of the fire, and it never feels like a copout, he always makes their efforts to get out of danger believable and earned.
Jolyne is a good character, she's feminine yet brash like all JoJos are, she's intelligent and has a very handy ability that she uses to its full potential, regularly getting out of tight corners and giving violent beatdowns to punks who push her too far.
Stone Ocean is another great addition to the JoJo saga, a brilliant shonen that has enough horror traits to almost veer it into seinen territory. The battles are ingenious and often brutal, packed with body mutilation and as usual for an Araki manga; featuring climaxes that are the result of characters acting intelligently and not because of contrived power-ups, as seems to be the rage in the post-millennium decade.
In terms of rating the last battle of this volume to other volumes, it definitely ranks as one of the best, a vast improvement over Part 5's battle in Italy. There are crazy powers causing utter mayhem on a global scale and insane counterattacks that come from nowhere but are always consistently logical in the context of the manga.
I love the author; he always comes up with crazy solutions to crazy problems. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is as enduring and consistently entertaining as the JoJo blood line. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
Nadesico is a love letter to the space/mecha genre, both laughing at it and along with it with the same level of panache as Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
It parodies the genre with clichés, and honours it by keeping to them itself. For example, Nadesico lampoons over the top sacrifices via its in-show 70’s/80's inspired mecha anime ‘Gekigangar 3’ then does the same thing itself anyway, revelling in the genre trope. It has a young adult unwillingly thrust into a mecha on an almost daily basis, yet his mecha is pink for crying out loud.
It’s actually a smart comedy because beyond the love for the mecha genre they're playing with, the writers are self-aware enough to acknowledge the details that a serious story would tackle, such as the (contractual) consequences of a corporation funding a military ship, funerals for the deceased, the effects of anime on viewers, and the different cultures of Earth, but never stopping the laughs along the way. They even justify the sillier stuff in the show such as having such an airhead for a captain, by again satirising corporate tendencies. (the concept of tailor-made captains because of technology handling the rest of the ship)
The backbone of this show, the factor that keeps it from descending into meaningless skit show histrionics is the attention to detail, on both a narrative level and thematic level. It has the enthusiasm for sci-fi so much that it goes to lengths to explain many of its technologies using nano-machines, cyber-networking and boson particle manipulation and any number of concepts that any avid reader of hard sci-fi will automatically recognise. Bear in mind this was released in the mid-90s before nano technology had hit the mainstream media as it has today, in the way it’s overridden nearly every mainstream sci-fi story as an explanation for fantastical stuff occurring on screen.
On top of that, the show for the most part avoids one of my own little pet peeves, that of ships in space taking hits from lasers and not blowing up instantly, as if they were back on Earth and only got hit by a few stray bullets. This little annoyance is avoided by the usage of actual force fields bouncing lasers off of the hulls. The animators even show waves in the ocean peeling backwards as the Nadesico hovers above.
It's this trivial, yet much welcomed, attention to detail that helps elevate the anime above mere comedy. It's not just about making you laugh, but immersing you in its world with consistency and delivering a genuinely engaging story. Rather than be a gimmick, the Gekigangar anime actually becomes more and more relevant to the main story in interesting ways that are better left unsaid in a review.
The story flows between cliché and creativity every five minutes constantly surprising you. Individuals who in no way belong on a ship are brought together anyway, characters who look like they'll be in main roles are dispatched speedily, enemy ships get progressively stronger, generic alien bad guys are revealed to be not so faceless or generic after all, a brilliant time-jumping Memento-esque episode that riffs on Evangelion's psychoanalytical finale in a humorous (yet always honourable) fashion also pops up, it’s just a complete mix.
And every single character on the Nadesico gets some level of development, which is no mean feat considering the comedic nature of the show. Even Nadesico's successor, TTGL, didn’t develop every character to any kind of level (Leeron for example), so when Nadesico goes out of its way to give a little detail to the past of a random pilot who you figure is only there to give bad puns, well you really appreciate it.
The actual plot of Nadesico when you strip everything else away is actually pretty interesting, which is why the anime works, it’s built on a good foundation. What starts as a generic ‘faceless aliens invading Earth’ story ends with the characters and viewer not wanting a victory for either side at all. The Nadesico ship itself belongs to a corporation, hence justifying the motley crew of misfits and the airhead of a captain. Because their superior technology is mostly automatic the captain was chosen for her looks, tailor-made for the crew's emotional wellbeing. It’s crazy, it’s cynical, but you just know corporations could be that stupid to do such a thing one day, obsessed as they are with end results and not the methodology to get there.
The mega corporation responsible for the Nadesico ship is also a brilliant way to force conflict and danger upon it, from both Earth's self-defence forces who don’t like the idea of corporations messing with military matters, and of course the invading aliens who don’t like the Nadesico for its pesky meddling. This is much more interesting than having a generic plotline where a military ship goes 'rogue' for the billionth time in a sci-fi tale. (ok, that happens later as well) As the threats to Earth get larger, and more time passes, uneasy alliances are formed, love triangles are formed then imploded, revelations are uncovered, suppressed memories are, well, unsuppressed.
The first three episodes are perfection, throwing you headfirst into its pitch-perfect comedic tones with hilarious stuff involving humour on both a physical and meta level. The voice acting is oldschool 90's assured goodness. Nadesico has some of the best and funniest ‘Engrish’ I've ever heard in anime. The soundtrack is also very decent; nothing too memorable except for the OP music, but the soundtrack isn’t too generic either.
So as stated earlier, Nadesico shares much in common with TTGL for its skill in blending irreverent humour with its homage to a very popular genre of anime, but a key difference between the two is that TTGL is not afraid of leaping outside the box and tossing physics to the side to bring almost-abstract comedic imagery, whereas Nadesico is always weighed down by consistent logic whether in physics or narrative.
This is to say, no matter what crazy stuff happens in Nadesico, unlike in TTGL, there's always a reason behind it. In TTGL Kamina's sword can stretch to infinity for no reason other than to make you laugh. In Nadesico, for example, there’s a reason why only certain people can boson jump, it’s not used for convenience’s sake. Nadesico is actually a better homage in that it uses meta-humour with the Gekigangar TV show, not for a gimmick but as part of the actual plot. Nadesico is actually a decent analysis and commentary on anime. The latter half of the show ups the drama and emotion, and pretty much blatantly celebrates the very medium itself with bold proclamations that are infectious.
Nadesico is an essential anime for sci-fi/comedy fans. Observe a young guy with suppressed memories get pushed around the solar system by a blue-haired witless captain of a White Base-ish ship blowing up insect-looking baddies while watching mecha anime in his spare time. The ending is far from cliché, however much it will leave some viewers disgruntled for its unresolved story, the fact is that everything of importance in the narrative actually IS resolved; it’s a cliché-avoiding ending that doesn’t resort to what Gekigangar, the mirror of most mecha anime, does.
It doesn’t force an ending on you with cheap happy shortcuts, Nadesico is better than this, going at its own assured pace always treating story and characters with respect. If you’re the type that just has to have every single plot point wrapped up and a more ‘complete’ ending, then there is the subsequent Animage Grand Prix Award-winning movie Nadesico The Movie awaiting you, though the movie is a separate beast entirely, different in tone from the series.
So there is only one Nadesico folks, one specific combination of humour, drama and space hijinks that hits the right spot each time. “Gekiga In!” read more
154 of 155 chapters read
In the sun-dappled land of Italy, a supporting character from Part 4, Koichi, is seeking a person that Jotaro has a keen interest in. A stand user. Carrying the Joestar bloodline, a handsome Georgiano Giovanni. Our next JoJo!
A new arc begins in one of manga's longest-running sagas, one that utilises the locale to its full potential, a rise-to-power mafia tale, one of comrades on the run from assassins, one of hidden family secrets coming to the surface and changing lives forever. One of hilarious pop music puns.
Most of the stands this time round are named after famous bands or artists, like Grateful Dead, Talking Heads, Aerosmith, etc. These are hilarious in context, and there are some I won’t reveal as they simply get funnier as the story progresses. Hirohiko Araki's humour is still flowing strong through his nimble fingers as he draws a landscape populated by more great (a)typical shonen characters and the powerful abilities they possess.
Eschewing the humorous slant on character abilities in part 4, Golden Wind's stands are all devastating in a wipe-the-smile-off-your-face kind of way. All of the antagonists have amazingly strong powers that make you balk and wonder how the good guys can possibly beat them. But they do. Then the next bad guy rolls along with another impossibly strong power and you're again wondering how it’s going to be overcome.
But it is. This is Araki's skill. He can churn out these battles time and time again, making it look easy. So many battles with extremely interesting mixes of abilities clashing together, and each time the outcome is unexpected yet logical, always entertaining. Golden Wind contains the most intense and violent battles yet, so gore-hounds will like some of the mutilations and removal of limbs involved.
There are plenty of exciting action scenes in Golden Wind also, mostly involving moving vehicles and lots of blood-letting. Trains, planes and automobiles, all are trashed to hell along with whoever was foolhardy enough to go against someone of the Joestar lineage, and with Dio's good looks, well damn you have to be a fool to even try.
Araki is a genius author. He manipulates environments logically according to the wacky powers, whether it’s turning an inanimate object into something living or a zipper (yes, a zipper), and the payoffs to his battles can be so ingenious, so deliciously clever, so satisfying, there are times you'll want to punch your fist into the air like an idiot.
Golden Wind further elaborates on the history of the mystical arrow which was introduced in a clumsy retcon manner in the previous part, Diamond Is Unbreakable. Araki learns from his mistakes and continually gets better and better at developing the many potentials of the JoJo saga. It’s not perfect however, so for the sake of being objective there’s a character that appears to be in a main supporting role that is unceremoniously dumped from the story and never heard from again, which was a bit weird.
Though the big villain of Golden Wind is on par with the sociopathic loon of the previous volume, I personally feel the last battle of the previous Diamond Is Unbreakable was much better than the one in Golden Wind, but it’s still got plenty of twists and thrills to entertain you.
From one brilliant set-piece to another Golden Wind barrels along to a high-stakes climax that includes, almost as a side dish, one of the most epic beatdowns to a supporting villain in shonen manga history. You’ll know it when you see it. Despite the final battle with the actual main villain lacking a bit of the coherence and intricately planned brilliance of the previous part’s climax, the journey to get there in Golden Wind is ridiculously addictive reading. read more
Jun 3, 2009JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond is Unbrea... (Manga) add
174 of 174 chapters read
Diamond Is Unbreakable's story begins with a few missteps, that of focusing on an illegitimate son thus almost rendering Joseph Joestar's courageous mission in the previous volume moot and making him look like a jerk (although this is played for laughs), and also more importantly slightly retconning the evil granny character of Enya by having her be a source of more trouble for the worlds citizens by going around with a mystical bow and arrow and randomly shooting people, giving them randomly assigned 'stand' powers.
Author Hirohiko Araki goes full on with crazy stand powers this time, emboldened with what he achieved in part 3 and the introduction of the crazy powers and their potential, you'll see a full range of quirky abilities that cause as many laughs as they do terror.
The main character of Josuke is thankfully livelier than the stoic and bland Jotaro of part 3, and with a more funky wardrobe courtesy of Araki's brilliant fashion sense. In fact the stylistic choices throughout the saga continue to get more and more inspired in their lunacy, it really is a joy to read and appreciate the unique art on display.
Josuke is surrounded by a motley crew of friends, family, enemies, enemies turned friends, friends turned enemies, random ghosts, aliens, and animals with attitude. They all fit one genre trope or another, but they're all very entertaining and very distinct.
Part 4 has awesome battles and abilities as usual for the franchise, and is almost worth it just for an action scene towards the latter half involving a motorcycle, a baby carriage and an unstoppable 'stand'. Araki's battles rarely ever rely on what today's staple shonen bestsellers always use: the old 'allies appear from nowhere and save the day' routine. Araki's characters get pushed and pushed into tight corners and work their way out using brain power, or if their allies do appear, it’s because of planned out teamwork, not mere coincidence or luck.
And even though there are a lot of 'standalone' stories in part 4 as opposed to a big mission, they're for the most part well thought-out and have plenty of great payoffs. They all thankfully advance the plot or character relations in some manner too, which is essential for good storytelling using a standalone format.
Especially the last story arc of Part 4 which is excellent indeed, with our plucky good guys facing-off against the saga's best villain. Yes better than Dio and his generic world-domination plans, Part 4's villain's threat is much more terrifying for its relation to reality. It’s easier to be threatened by a sociopath who avoids fights and attention (knowing full well he can silence anyone he pleases easily) and preys on the weak for his own satisfaction.
Despite its flaws and rocky beginning, part 4 sustains JoJo's tendency for making readers laugh out loud at the surreal humour and quickly turn pages in anticipation of the next outstanding battle and all the twists and turns it entails. Even Joseph's playa ways, which I cited as an unnecessary misstep, gets a humorous payoff at the end.
I can barely think of anything negative to say about this manga after all. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is probably the greatest shonen ever, its amazingly long publishing run and popularity proves it. read more
22 of 22 chapters read
Three cult members are on a small island off the coast of Japan taking part in a program to purify themselves in order to become new heightened humans, and the method to do this is through a humble routine of mental exercise and meditation, eating, sleeping, and the occasional secret lust-ridden sex, betrayal, paranoia, death and mutilation.
You see, you can’t just plop three humans on an island and not expect it to all go haywire. Especially since their food rations begin running out thanks to a lack of food drops from their main organisation which is quite obviously in financial and legal trouble.
This all harkens back to the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, and being that this manga was published in 1999 you can feel the millennial fears and worries come to life on the page. Author Naoki Yamamoto takes a pivotal moment in Japanese news and concentrates on the lesser folk involved in the affair, and does it brilliantly by isolating them from the main happenings on the mainland. It is a staple of the thriller genre to increase tension on ordinary people bit by bit until the proverbial pot boils over and Believers delivers on that aspect at an assured pace.
The three characters themselves are well fleshed out with compelling backgrounds and seeing them rub off on each other, quite literally in some cases, is a joy. The lust that rears its head is kinetic, the paranoia and suspicion, the outright jealousy masked by hierarchy is ugly but very real.
As one extreme emotion follows another, the behaviour of the characters, one in particular, becomes more and more selfish in nature and so transparent yet the other two are so weak-willed that for the most part they can’t defend themselves from ridiculous demands and outrageous behaviour that borders on hysterical satire if it weren’t so disturbing and realistic to imagine.
That is Believer's strength, its portrayal of ugly emotions taking flight in humans so easily susceptible to outside influences, so reliant on external stimulation and ideas, not strong enough inside themselves, not strong enough to have realised how bloody stupid it was to join the cult in the first place, let alone willingly go on an island and ultimately allow themselves to spiral into the depths of human instinct gone crazy with blood-lust.
It builds to a terrifying climax and good resolution that almost veers into over the top territory but then refrains and settles for a more logical and satisfying conclusion with some form of liberation. That’s what the entire story is about really, finding liberation. read more