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13 of 13 episodes seen
But then, as these stories usually go, a buddy of mine brought the series up in a conversation, and that eventually got me started watching. After I started, I found myself waiting for a new episode each week -- because what the characters were going to do next, or how they were going to get themselves out of another pinch mattered to me.
I think this is slice of life done right. Life doesn't necessarily have a theme or even a sense of coherency to it, but as a story about five high school students brought together by a common interest (albeit some less willingly than others), each episode felt like it was there for a reason. There are individual mini-arcs for each of the five main characters with a decent focus on each (but mostly on the three girls), and it's as much about friendship and support as it is about their obstinacy toward pursuing music despite the obstacles that lay before them.
The drama and srs bsns of high school life is lightened by comedy at all the right times, mostly at the hands of Miyamoto Konatsu, a lovable, persistent shortie who doesn't know when to quit. She's voiced by Seto Asami, and if you're familiar with Chihayafuru then you'll know she's got a certain energy and verve to her voice when she does energetic characters. She's just great at voicing lovable dolts.
The other two girls are voiced by Takagaki Ayahi and Hayami Saori. Now, if you're familiar with your seiyuu as well, you'll notice that all three women are superb at singing. Takagaki is even professionally trained in opera, and you'll see a bit of it when she sings (hilariously, she does this with a 'Power Rangers' song at one point). You could say that's one thing I really liked about the series... I feel like there's a lot of forethought in the casting of actors that reflects in the finished product.
The diverse supporting characters bring in a lot of fun and quirkiness as well. A hardass vice principal, a cool, ultra casual mom that gets mistaken as one of the character's elder sister, and so on. There is a sense that the story is set within a community, rather than just isolated to the high school alone (you know those series -- they take place exclusively within the school building and little else is touched upon).
The animation is just as pretty as its predecessor, with optimistic colours that speak to the (ideal) vibrancy of high school life. And it's a thoughtful series that doesn't seem to target the same demographic as most series usually do. There really isn't fanservice at all, and it kind of just... is. It's not shoujo, it's not shounen, it's not josei, and it's not seinen. I really wouldn't call Tari Tari a masterpiece by any means, but I found it very enjoyable. It's a good little pick-me-up. One issue I had with it was how it felt a bit slow when I had to wait week by week, but now that it's finished airing, you're free to watch it however you want, whether in spurts or by marathoning as well.
I would probably recommend this series to people who like...
- slice of life
- the unnamed 'in-between' of shoujo and josei (it's a series that largely adopts a more neutral or possibly even female perspective)
- amazing singing in general (Don't believe me? Search 'Quel Guardo Il Cavaliere 高垣彩陽' on YouTube for Takagaki's singing!)
- comedy (Your mileage may vary, but Tari Tari had me laughing out loud at several points, when series usually only get a grin or two out of me.)
It's probably one of my favourites this season (or maybe even year?). I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did, if your boat floats that way. read more
25 of 25 episodes seen
The premise is not what you would call exceptional in any case. You have your protagonist who possesses remarkable talent, and through training and perservance, will become the best of the best. Who learns lessons through trials and tribulations, deepening and strenghtening bonds with teammates as time goes along. Your standard stuff.
So why should you watch Saki?
I think there are various demographics who would like Saki. Let's list them out first.
1. Sports/tournament-style anime fans
2. Moe moe kyun~ ♥
3. Yuri fans
It's pretty obvious why sports/tournament-style anime fans will like this series, 'cause that's exactly what it is. If you like seeing your protagonist face off with increasingly harder opponents, learning new things and gaining others' respect slowly and surely, then this is definitely for you. I think Saki reminds me a lot of Hikaru no Go and Prince of Tennis (but, as I've mentioned, a lot lower with the testosterone level).
As for moe, 99% of the cast consists of cute high school girls. I'm serious. Let's see, the only guys who get more than two lines are the commentator (for the prefectural qualifiers), someone's grandpa, and the one guy that's the protagonist's childhood friend (who is largely absent in most episodes). And if I told you that there was one guy surrounded by five girls, you'd think "harem!" right away, right? Wrong. It's remarkable how little presence the guy has in this series. Half the time you forget he actually exists. But there are a couple of gratuitous fantasy scenes from him (i.e. well-endowed girls in bikinis), so you might like it if you like harem series, but you have to remember that the guy barely exists.
Now, for yuri. It's unbelievable how... yuriffic Saki is. At first I thought it was my imagination, but it's laden with so much subtext that it'll send you reeling. The girls keep blushing at each other (half the time the blushes don't even make much sense) and it's about as unsubtle as subtext can get. (If you don't like yuri, I suppose it's still possible to see it as "just" friendship, but you gotta wonder sometimes...)
I think the character designs are pretty cute (it's moe, after all), and a lot of the mahjong parts are CG, which looks really sleek. (And who knew about automatic mahjong tables? I sure didn't.) Gonzo's animation quality is inconsistent though, so sometimes the characters look a little blobby, but overall I think it's fairly good.
The cast for Saki is HUGE. Nevertheless, the seiyuu cast is very solid, with quite a few big names. The OP and ED are okay, but nothing exceptional. And character development is next to none, which is pretty much what you'd expect for a "sports"/tournament-style series. It's not trying to be deep or anything; it's just entertainment.
People who dislike lots of confusing terminology (and who are not familiar with Japanese names for mahjong terms) probably should stay away. They keep talking about terms and giving 5-second explanations that will leave you even more confused than before. But if you can take it all in stride, I think Saki's a good guilty-pleasure that you can blaze through mindlessly. read more
Nov 22, 2008Kaleido Star: Legend of Phoenix - Layla Hamilton M... (Anime) add
1 of 1 episodes seen
What should be surprising (if you've watched the actual series) is how out of character the above statement sounds. Because in Kaleido Star, Layla is one of the strongest, most professional, confident, and assured women you can find. In fact, her "character type" is rather archetypical. But in the later episodes of Kaleido Star, you see just how human Layla is and how strong she is for holding up the way she does, but Kaleido Star: Legend of Phoenix manages to take even that to the next level.
The OVA knows how pretentious "finding yourself" plots can be, and pokes fun at itself for the way Layla goes about actually doing it. It's very grounded and real, and although the dialogue-- and I will be the first to admit this-- isn't something I understand 100% of the time, the characters' resolve, their emotions, are all clearly felt. Layla and Sora share a very complex relationship, and I was terribly moved to see their relationship continue evolving as it had in the series. Sora had always admired Layla, and I think in this OVA, she connects with Layla on an even more personal emotional level.
After I finished the OVA, I felt soothed, comforted, and it had induced a generally uplifting feeling. Perhaps this experience can be best described as catharsis, one which I felt along with Layla. There is a special scene in this OVA where you feel like all is right in the world. It is, above all things, very innocent and poignant in its simplicity.
The art is much, much better than the series (as one would expect of an OVA) and the colour palette is soft, which fits the tone of Kaleido Star: Legend of Phoenix very well. The seiyuu from the series reprise their respective roles in the OVA, and Oohara Sayaka (Layla's seiyuu) even sings two songs for us. (They're listed as the "OP" and the "ED", but there isn't an OP or ED sequence; the songs play as the story begins and ends, so you're in for a solid fifty minutes.)
I highly, highly suggest that you watch Kaleido Star before even considering the idea of attempting this OVA, because there's just so much you'll miss on. It's still very beautiful on its own, but various details and the humour sprinkled throughout will mean less, as will the depth of the two female leads' relationship. I recommended this to those who love beautiful, poignant tales of self-discovery, though I sincerely hope whoever watches this will at least attempt Kaleido Star prior to it. It is a serious commitment, especially for those who do not necessarily like shoujo, because the series lasts for over fifty episodes. I will also warn you here that Kaleido Star, although a good series, has a less realistic take compared to the OVA-- "if you persevere, you can overcome anything". With that in mind, I hope you'll greatly enjoy this beautiful little OVA. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
But what should come as a surprise is when I tell you this is a series with awesome, mind-blowing action. The action sequences are great, and never choppy. StrikerS's got the type of action that rouses excitement and gets your adrenaline pumping, not what you'd expect to get in mahou shoujo.
And perhaps a little background history is in order. The Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha franchise was originally created and geared toward seinen audiences who like their flat-chested loli girls. You can see the franchise succeeded admirably, given the immense popularity Nanoha and Fate (our two original magical girls) enjoy. I've also noticed that really hardcore fans of this franchise tend to prefer the original Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha and Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A's a lot more than StrikerS; I see this as evidence of StrikerS falling into the opposite end of the mahou shoujo spectrum, setting it apart from its two predecessors. (Besides which, since StrikerS is set ten years after A's, Nanoha and Fate are no longer, ah, flat-chested loli girls.)
StrikerS has a solid and grounded plot. It's well-paced, mixing everyday life with the very hectic nature of our magical girls' (and one "magical boy") job duties quite well. You get to see them on their down time, in actual combat, and what's surpising is, you even get to see them training. You get to see them get bruised, exhausted, have arguments with their team members, and even screw up majorly. With that said, I can't say the plot's extremely original or anything; it's good, but not superb. The characterisation is very good, especially since we can see various characters' vulnerabilities and misgivings. Their motivations are clear as well (maybe not at first, but definitely by the end of the series you know why people do what they do).
Now, for sound. Check the seiyuu list-- you've got a lot of big names there, so you know at the very least the quality meets a certain standard. There are some emotionally-charged scenes, and they're executed very, very well by the seiyuu. The OPs are terribly uplifting and catchy, especially the first one. The EDs are very good, particularly on the basis that they offer suitable music to listen to after an episode, whether it was happy or gut-wrenchingly sad. There's nothing as bad as watching a sad episode and then suddenly having sugary happy music assaulting your ears before you've even had enough time being sad.
I've mostly had good things to say about StrikerS, so needless to say, I enjoyed it very much. I think StrikerS transcends the mahou shoujo genre and is just plainly enough, a series done well. I would recommend this to anyone who just wants to watch a good series and isn't too particular about genres. For people who are allergic to girly mahou shoujo, I would still ask you to keep an open mind and just try out the first episode (which, incidentally, has awesome action and isn't the least bit girly). If you like the first episode, I can almost guarantee you'll like the rest of the series. Those who are looking for romance in StrikerS might be disappointed though, since the only romance I really saw (if any) was subtextual f/f (which is worth watching for, in my opinion, if you're into yuri). So I wouldn't suggest this title to hardcore shoujo romance or harem series viewers.
I think StrikerS is different enough from its predecessors to watch on its own (it is, after all, set ten years after A's), but to truly understand the relationship between Nanoha, Fate, Hayate, and the rest of the older generation, you really have to watch the original series and A's. The first two series are very traditionally mahou shoujo though (but with great animation and vague hints of fanservice, due to its seinen-geared history) so please proceed with caution if you are allergic. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
Gokujou Seitokai follows the formulaic school comedy idea fairly closely, and boasts a rather, if you will, cliché student council centric cast. But this is also where this series shines. I left something out when I said this series fell into the school comedy genre because technically speaking, this is a satirical school comedy.
We need not go far to find evidence of this; just the title of this series alone has satirical elements to it. "Seitokai", as you might already know, means "student council". "Gokujou", then, is actually an abbreviation-- the full title of this series should actually be Miyagami Gakuen Gokudai Kengen Hoyuu Saijoukyuu Seitokai (Miyagami Academy Maximum Authority Holders Ultimate Level Student Council). I hardly need to point out it pokes fun at ridiculously long titles and names for things to make them sound impressive (think "ultimate attacks" in fighting anime series). Because of this satirical take, the series is not hindered but actually made better by its simple and rather predictable storyline.
Art-wise, it's fair enough to not really bother you either way. The animation is less than stellar, and sometimes you're left wondering where the heck the characters are looking at since they usually seem to have far-off gazes to their eyes. It shouldn't bug the average anime viewer very much, though. I didn't even notice it when I watched it the first time around. Colour-wise, this series goes with softer pastel colours, and it really goes well with the vibrant cheeriness that Gokujou Seitokai exudes.
The OP and ED are very good, in my opinion. Before I really get into the songs, I must say, it's particularly surprising that Gokujou Seitokai isn't more popular. It has an astounding seiyuu cast, with most (I'm talking 75% and above) being veterans and solidly A-list seiyuu. I won't elaborate too much on this since not everyone is into seiyuu (or even original Japanese audio), but if you are interested in seiyuu, I urge you to take a look at the cast. And although it has an impressive seiyuu cast, I can't give higher than 8/10 because there weren't any gut-wrenchingly mind-blowing scenes for the seiyuu to perform at their full capacity.
Now, the songs. Tamura Yukari sings the upbeat, cheery OP. It works, to say the least, since Tamura has one of the most moe voices I know. Oh, and this might be a concern for less serious anime goers. You may find the protagonist (voiced by Tamura) to be a little too high-pitched. I remember it getting on my nerves before I got my bearings and got used to the relatively high-pitched voices for girls in anime. The ED is very good too, and it's sung by several veteran seiyuu.
So... to put it shortly, I think this is a series I'd recommend to anyone who likes school comedies. It's suitable for all levels of viewers. Less serious anime viewers will like it for the hilarity, and people who've watched a gazillion school comedies will probably like it for the satirical elements. It also has vague (but very there) f/f vibes. It's played up for comedic value, but yuri fans will probably like it as well. (Anti-yuri people probably won't mind it, since as I said, it's played for comedy.) One thing to note, however, is that this does not have seinen-esque fanservice in the manner of cleavage shots or I-see-your-panties-and-get-massive-nosebleed gags despite the entirely female cast. Comedy and satire carry this series through. read more
5 of 5 episodes seen
The seiyuu offer a good, consistent performance, so no complaints on that front. The ending theme songs, however, are rather at odds with the general tone of the series. The first ED passably complemented the series, but the second one was too upbeat. Don't skip out when the credits roll in the later episodes like I did at first, though, as it comprises absolutely gorgeous artwork.
Maria-sama ga Miteru OVA also explores different relationships that weren't previously addressed, in addition to delving into existing ones at greater length. A few characters that we haven't seen in a while are brought back (some only momentarily) and there's at least one character introduced that we haven't met properly yet.
For some reason, in the OVAs they've stopped the tradition of using tongue-in-cheek humour for the episode previews, and it's vaguely disappointing in that regard. (The DVD specials are as funny as ever though, but that's another kettle of fish.)
There were some cheesy-- but heartwarming-- moments, and it's getting increasingly to the point where the f/f subtext can't be called subtext anymore. To be sure, little is of the "in your face" sort. Some appreciate such things expressed forthright, but it is not in line with Maria-sama ga Miteru OVA's style.
So in that sense this series might not be such a good choice for these people, but I think after watching the first and second seasons, we should all know what to expect. If you haven't started liking Maria-sama ga Miteru as a whole after two seasons, it's unlikely to change in the third. With that in mind, I can only say that Maria-sama ga Miteru OVA was above and beyond what I expected. read more
2 of 7 episodes seen
Before we get into the review, I'd like to mention a major warning (that is fundamentally SPOILERish): This series has incestual vibes between fraternal twin sisters.
The additional episodes don't seem to push the sisterly relations between the two protagonists as much with the shift from calling Yukino "Yuki-nee" (in the ONA) to "Yuki-chan", but even with episode one you can see that the fluffy overtone is a clear continuation of the ONA.
Candy☆Boy is one of those series that rolls slice of life, comedy, and romance all into one, so plot is most likely going to be rather incidental. The art is a lot more detailed and the animation much smoother in the additional episodes compared to the ONA, while the seiyuu continue to deliver a solid performance. (You may recognise Sakuya's seiyuu as Katou Emiri, of Lucky☆Star fame as Kagami.)
The comedic moments are well-timed, and serve to enhance the series overall without taking the limelight away from the relationship dynamics.
Of course, it's still too early to say much in terms of character development at this time and there are many other points that haven't been expounded on yet, so I will update this when we are privy to more episodes.
I do think the series is coming along nicely, however, as the motivations of certain characters weren't made too clear in the ONA.
Episode two brings more of the same defining characteristics of Candy☆Boy that makes it so lovable-- cute interactions between Kana and Yuki, with Sakuya keeping things light-hearted. A shot or two reminiscient of fanservice cropped up, so that might be this series' attempt to draw (and maintain) the attention of its targeted demographic audience.
*Will be integrated into the rest of the review at a later date when generalisations are possible. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
Well, if you don't know from those three points already, I had some relatively high expectations of it. I was quite sceptical about this series after I finished watching the first episode because I found the premise ridiculously similar to the prior instalment that I just mentioned. I decided to stick around for a bit, and I'm really glad I did because my first impression was quite off the mark.
The story isn't exceptional-- it's neither remarkably good nor remarkably bad-- but I think it serves its purpose well enough. I'll be the first to admit that there are some plot holes, but as you will see, other things make up for it a bit and in the end it doesn't matter as much as it really should. This series isn't very serious most of the time, so I was inclined to be slightly more lenient regarding such things. Those of you who are tired of some of Bee Train's slower stuff need not worry; El Cazador goes at a decent pace as far as things go. I think the animation is pretty good, but then again, I don't appreciate these things from a very technical point of view. And I love the character designs.
Now, to sound-- the music part of this assessment is pretty darn easy. What it comes down to is this: Kajiura Yuki composed the music and I love her work. As for the seiyuu, I'm a bit more ambivalent. I like Itou Shizuka (Nadie's seiyuu) quite a bit here and Shimizu Ai (Ellis' seiyuu) managed to sway my opinion a bit in her favour with her performance as Ellis (whereas I usually cringe at her presence). And Hisakawa Aya is always fun, even though I'm not a particularly big fan of hers. I didn't find anything astoundingly memorable, but it was a good, solid performance throughout and many parts were... how shall I put it... rather cute (in the heartwarming sense and not so much as moe). I'd probably rate it an "eight" if I were rating the seiyuu only, but Kajiura's music bumped the sound category up.
Now for the best bit-- the interpersonal dynamics between the characters, and namely the sweet (not sugary) subtextual interactions. It's great stuff if you go for the slightly more understated sort of thing (though it's also quite in-your-face at times). I think the most delicious part of all was the character development. Especially with Ellis-- you go into the series thinking of her in a certain way, and only in the end do you realise how much she's changed. There isn't one sudden moment where she just changes on you; it's a subtle process, that, as I've said, is great if you go for that sort of subtlety. I also love how some things were played up in the conclusion.
The fanservice is kept to a minimum, for which I am grateful. I could do without it completely, though, since it seemed a bit incongruous to me in El Cazador, what with my experiences with previous series done by Bee Train with no fanservice at all.
I think, really, this is one of those fun series where you don't have to think too much. The plot just carries everything along, but what I think ends up mattering most at the end is the characters themselves. The whole "intrigue" of the plot, in my opinion, takes a backseat to the characters' development, most notably in Ellis' case. And of course, you do get your dose of action and adventure to go along with it. read more
2 of 2 episodes seen
Now, to the important stuff: Why do I like this so much?
Simply enough, it explains why Suigintou is the way she is. Haven't you watched or read enough things where there are incredibly evil antagonists, and you hate their guts, but you have no idea why they're doing what they're doing?
Suigintou starts to change in Träumend but as viewers we still don't understand where her attitude comes from. Those who have watched Rozen Maiden will know why Suigintou's particularly sensitive to certain insults, but Ouvertüre tells us the real reason, and I am inclined to believe even Suigintou-haters will empathise (or at the very least, sympathise) with her, even if only for a fleeting moment.
And even though the events in Ouvertüre take place before both Rozen Maiden and Träumend, I highly suggest watching Ouvertüre last to fully appreciate it.
In other news, the art and animation's wonderful, and as for "sound", I tend to weigh the seiyuu's performance more heavily than the music. Both Tanaka Rie and Sawashiro Miyuki (Shinku's seiyuu) were outstanding in Ouvertüre. And I'm not kidding about that at all. I don't think it's possible to watch Ouvertüre and come away thinking, "The seiyuu could've been better than that."
I do wish it were longer-- for how can two episodes sate the insatiable? -- but I think it's a suitable length for Ouvertüre as far as things go. The point of Ouvertüre isn't to answer and explain all the unanswered questions thus far; it's to give Suigintou character development.
And in that regard, I think it's succeeded in a most spectacular fashion. read more
1 of 1 episodes seen
Well, Candy☆Boy is the complete opposite. It's a short ONA that doesn't even last eight minutes long, but it's really sweet and the ending leaves you with a heartwarming feeling.
As a bonus, if you haven't noticed yet, Nabatame Hitomi voices one of the main characters. And if you don't know she's practically seen as the queen bee of yuri* seiyuu... well.
*My usage of "yuri" does not connote anything sexual or pornographic in nature, hence my preference to use "f/f" to mean "shoujo ai" or "yuri".
The ratings to the left are as objective as I can put them; your perception and take of the premise will, of course, greatly influence your actual enjoyment or lack thereof.
Major warning (and fundamentally slightly SPOILERish):
For those who don't like watching anime with sisterly incest-- then this is not for you.
The bottom line is, if you like f/f and don't mind twincest, then this is a must-see.
In any case, you only have to commit seven minutes and thirty-nine seconds of your life to see if it's a suitable assessment, should it have piqued your interest.
EDIT: The DVD version's now out, and it's got an additional scene. The cuteness-- well, heck, it's off the scale. The total length should be around ten minutes for the DVD version. Most of the additional length is actually the ED, though. The scene in question lasts less than a minute but it's definitely worth the trouble looking for, as long as you heed the warning from above regarding the nature of the relationship. For those who are a bit more touchy about this and could just barely stand the ONA, don't watch the additional scene. It gives the relationship a bit more "definiteness" while still remaining tame. read more