13 of 13 episodes seen
The final result, however, is an enjoyable set of interconnected stories where great characterization shines through the virtues of a solid script.
The plot combines adventure, comedy, mystery, fantasy, action and horror in a very attractive package. Based on a light novel series, the American 1930s and a particular train serve as the primary backdrop for a narrative that manages to be both self-aware of its own nature and surprisingly cohesive, despite the intimidating size of its cast and what first appears to be something of a chronological mess.
Many initially unrelated events have either important or, at least, incidental connections, with alternatively humorous and tragic consequences. The antics of Isaac and Miria are consistently funny, providing a welcome change of pace from the world surrounding them, which can be dramatic and even explicitly violent without making the contrast seem uneven.
Clearly, there was a lot of thought put into the original script but the animated adaptation's use of time is not simply a gimmick. I even believe that quite a few in-jokes and revelations are, believe it or not, enhanced by this creative decision.
It would be very easy for this series to fall apart but there is definitely a method to the madness. When the tale finally ends, the viewer will likely walk away quite satisfied. Baccano! has plenty of memorable scenes and subplots, most of which are resolved in a very satisfying fashion. Those that aren't remain open as doors to further adventures which I'd certainly like to see.
Good animation is the norm with a few minor mistakes here and there. The character designs have a nice style and succeed in making most of the cast easily identifiable, one way or another, but it may take some time to tell certain characters apart whenever the quality briefly drops.
A strong set of opening and ending songs, including the animated sequences themselves, does a lot to set the tone. The rest of the Baccano! soundtrack is also quite moody and even refreshing, essentially representing a good range of emotions across the board. Probably one of my favorites.
Much of the beauty of Baccano! lies in its characters, who aren't just very colorful but also join together to weave a competent narrative that gradually reveals itself to the viewer. From comedic thieves to charismatic madmen to members of the mafia and dark conspirators, you wouldn't be exaggerating too much by stating that this series has it all.
Aside from Isaac and Miria, who are just a lot of fun to watch, I must say that Claire Stanfield is easily my personal choice for a highlight, taking the entire series into consideration and not just any particular arc, although almost any other pick would be equally justified.
This is truly an ensemble cast and perhaps one of the few cases in which its sheer size never really makes the whole building stumble. Each character has a convincing personality and their respective development arcs never really drag out too long. Screen time isn't a problem. I would still say that a couple of individuals benefit from being fleshed out during the DVD OVAs, but even in those cases the main TV series has already managed to make them interesting.
While it took me a long time to sit down and watch this series, the experience was almost entirely rewarding and Baccano! has become one of my current favorites. I cannot honestly speak for its replay value just yet, but during my first viewing it was practically impossible to stop. The quality of its characters and storytelling was one reason, but there were a number of exciting cliffhangers, resolved sooner or later though not always immediately, which came at just the right moments.
It is certainly a real shame that the rest of the novels haven't received animated adaptations because more Baccano! would be a pleasant surprise, just like the original was. read more
25 of 25 episodes seen
I think R2 was a disappointment but not without redeeming qualities. It is an enjoyable sequel that could have used more foresight and additional planning. Maybe a little less ambition, a smaller cast of characters or better pacing would have been very welcome improvements. In the end, I appreciated Code Geass as a whole in spite of its flaws. Not the best show out there, but then again it doesn't need to be.
After having to go through strangely familiar territory, Code Geass R2 finally reaches a grander scale. What began as a local rebellion ends up having larger repercussions, both directly and indirectly. And that is just the big picture. The protagonist, Lelouch, continues to keep everything together here. What remains at the core of Code Geass and its themes is his development as a character. But it is, admittedly, the kind of development that tends to take him in a far more destructive than constructive direction and this can be hard to watch, let alone swallow. Nevertheless, I believe the main plot was brought to a rather fitting, if not absolutely satisfying, conclusion as far as those terms are concerned. Unfortunately, this central focus on Lelouch was a little too dominant in the long run, at the expense of other elements.
We are taken through many more twists and turns this time around, which is both good and bad. From the exciting to the absolutely ridiculous, from the dramatic to the cheap, most are at least amusing. Yet there are clear pacing problems, especially towards the second half of R2, and that did affect the overall flow. I never felt really lost, but certain events were dealt with too quickly, including one climatic confrontation in particular. In retrospect, several early episodes were ultimately unnecessary and wasted valuable screen time that later developments could have used. As things stand, the show is rather messy and certain ideas received uneven amounts of attention.
The writing and direction are competent, at heart, but evidently suffer from trying to do too much, too quickly and thus may have shot themselves in the foot more than once. The first half of the series has increased fanservice, which can be occasionally distracting. Some mysteries were resolved but, unfortunately, a few unanswered questions of varying importance were also left behind and this can be annoying if not actually crippling. The show's mecha action is acceptable but lost some of its appeal due to accelerated technological progression. It's still not as much of a factor here as it would be in other series though, from my point of view, since it isn't really meant to be the main focus.
Finally, the last story arc seemed out of place at first and its very existence remains quite controversial in light of other possibilities. The ending itself, on the other hand, benefits from markedly increased attention to detail by the production staff and packs a strong emotional and thematic punch, even if the epilogue that followed it was probably too short. The final episode of Code Geass R2 gives the viewer the ability to make up his or her own mind, which is a double-edged sword. I can say the resolution worked for me, but there are different opinions.
Production values are still well above the average. The animation was generally alright and, in specific places, even great. Some background frames did lack quality, but not to a bothersome extent unless you know where to look. Even then, it must be pointed out that some of the worst sequences were reanimated or redrawn in time for the DVD release. The original character designs by CLAMP continue to be fairly effective and the mechanical side of things was also quite competent overall.
Code Geass R2 had good music and, for the most part, it was used well within the show itself. Some pieces are bombastic, no doubt, as one would probably expect from a tale so intrinsically linked to having a flair for the dramatic. Several tracks from the first season make a comeback here, but there is plenty of new material. The insert songs, in particular, were very nice even if a little more elusive. The opening and ending themes are a little less memorable but certainly not bad. With one exception, maybe, as opinions may easily vary here.
Lelouch is what drives Code Geass and he was still fairly successful in this regard as long as you can tolerate the story's overall direction, but he wouldn't be nearly as interesting without the ongoing dynamic between him and Suzaku, who once again played the most important supporting role. Kallen and C.C. got some attention and closure in their own right when they were given enough screen time, even if certain expectations were not met. Overall, these four characters received some development, though not without problems here and there. I suppose Rolo, Shirley and Nunnally also had their moments too, all things considered, but just barely.
That sounds fine, so what lowered the score then? An old issue which wasn't helped by rushed pacing: the huge cast was often misused and certain plot threads were left unresolved. Too many minor characters were introduced without giving them enough weight to stand on. Many of them didn't require much attention in the first place -I can see that the story works regardless- but others did seem to demand either more screen time or more convincing motivations. The show's antagonists, some more than others, were noticeably lacking. In the end, the picture is definitely mixed here and I can't help but feel that a lot more could have been done with a smaller number of characters.
Code Geass R2 was an entertaining show, in many different ways, and I do not regret watching it. From the serious to the absurd, from cliffhanger to cliffhanger, the series succeeded in making me anticipate almost every upcoming episode. There are specific events which can't be taken seriously, at all, and the staff must surely be aware of this. But there are also some genuinely effective moments in the mix, depending on what the viewer is willing to put up with, and while the series can be rightfully accused of being emotionally manipulative it isn't nearly as senseless as it appears to be on the surface.
In short, R2 benefits from simply being fun to watch, even though it is very true that there were problematic issues along the way. Many of the show's flaws could have been avoided with a tighter narrative, more explanations and a far more reasonable pace. As a sequel, Code Geass R2 feels appropriate yet also disappointing. Not everyone will be happy with the end result and I have my own complaints, but Code Geass, as a whole, was a worthwhile experience. read more
13 of 13 episodes seen
I felt quite intimidated, being new to most of Tezuka's work, but the nature of the story and its excellent execution allows Hi no Tori to be surprisingly entertaining while still remaining emotionally and intellectually stimulating.
The premise seems simple on the surface: the hunt for an immortal bird whose blood is said to provide eternal life. It is not that, however, which leaves a lasting impression on the viewer, but everything else that happens around it. Each story arc has its own cast of characters whose respective trials and fates through the ages lead us to a powerful but poignant message, one which also asks more questions than those it answers, directly or indirectly, about life and its value.
It's hard to estimate how much of the original manga is being respected in this adaptation, as I have not read it, but director Ryosuke Takahashi does a wonderful job at conveying a sense of internal consistency and the end result is certainly effective. Any added, removed or altered details, for reasons of time constraints and possibly subject matter, do not get in the way.
Most of the character designs are based on Tezuka's artistic style and are repeatedly recycled, which may be a negative for other viewers. I would admit they are cartoony, but a few begin to look a little more modern as the series goes on. It didn't really bother me though. The animation's production values also vary, but they're usually quite fitting and tend to improve. The Phoenix itself, in particular, provides a few opportunities to showcase some nice special effects.
The opening and ending themes are fine, for my tastes, but they do work better as part of the show than by themselves. The remaining musical themes mainly stayed in the background but were also used to convey comfort, tragedy, action, hope and desperation at the appropriate moments.
Tezuka's characters are not that complex, but their personalities are strong and the plot twists definitely do not pander to the crowd. Tragedy is commonplace, as it is a fact of life, yet so is the struggle against it, the struggle to overcome, the struggle to survive. At the end of the day, what remains may seem disheartening, even if not everything is bleak. There are sparse comedic moments, acts of heroism and altruism, acts of pure villainy, loss of life, senseless or otherwise, all showing different aspects of humanity's mosaic.
A special note must be made about the Phoenix itself, a very intriguing entity in its own right, whose role and intentions seemingly vary throughout the show, something which could literally spark entire debates.
I enjoyed this anime a lot more than originally expected, especially because of all the food for thought it provides, whose surface I have barely scratched. I will now seek to read the manga, in order to have a better understanding of what Tezuka himself did with the material, but it doesn't seem that his spirit was lost to the anime staff.
Hi no Tori is definitely great but, unfortunately, often overlooked. If you want something that can make you think about difficult questions, and don't mind if it's not flashy or action-oriented, go ahead and check it out .
A word of caution: watch each arc in one go, but do not try to marathon the entire series. Some downtime may be required to fully appreciate each story and to recover from any resulting emotional fallout. I know I did. read more
1 of 1 episodes seen
Those are all the basics. I liked it, and if you appreciate old-school Super Robot shows, or like to make fun of the formula and its quirks, this is a nice OVA which can be enjoyed without using up too much of your time.
The OVA is quite self-contained, so you don't really need to know about Nadesico in order to understand it. A couple of Nadesico characters are going to see the Gekiganger 3 movie, but they don't really interrupt the action once it begins, which is fair enough. Previous Nadesico knowledge will give you a little bit of extra background info, making it a plus but nothing essential.
Before the main feature, a short compilation of episodes from the fictional Gekiganger 3 TV series provides a quick overview of the story so far, what the characters are like and how their world works. Some viewers prefer the compilation to the movie, but I think both work here and, if anything, the movie is a fair representation of what similar projects were like in reality: an excuse to see robots and aliens beat the crap out of each other, without being too concerned about plot holes and continuity issues.
The Gekiganger 3 story itself isn't going to win any awards for originality or complexity, but it's not meant to: three passionate young men combine their powers to pilot a giant Super Robot in order to defend the Earth from alien invaders. A timeless formula, whether you take it seriously, like the characters in the show and countless others do, or just want to laugh at the ensuing over the top antics, silly melodrama and mindless hot blooded action. Having a little bit of both perspectives is fine too, of course.
Character and mecha designs are intentionally meant to look dated and aren't very impressive (not to mention original) by modern standards, but they definitely give the OVA a nice classic feel. Production values are decent and the animation, while lacking, is relatively smooth at key moments. It has to be said that tolerating a generous use of stock footage is a must, obviously, especially during robot transformation and attack sequences.
The music, while somewhat repetitive, is quite good for the Super Robot genre, being mostly energetic but also melodramatic or sad when it needs to. The Gekiganger 3 theme song is actually pretty catchy as well, especially if you like older anime openings.
Since this is supposed to be a Super Robot parody/tribute, the characters are directly inspired by the heroes, villains and supporting cast members of genre classics like Mazinger Z and Getter Robo, among others. Many of them are fine archetypes of good and evil, their stories being simple and entirely predictable if you've seen any Super Robot shows before, but still fun to watch in action. Again, you shouldn't expect to see, say, the cast of an ambitious space opera here, and the OVA is far too short to even remotely contemplate it.
The Gekiganger 3 OVA can be pretty enjoyable if you're prepared to see something of this nature and don't expect to see a completely different show. If that's the case, then this is a fairly good parody/tribute to a classic genre.
If Super Robot shows seem like a bore and older animation is a pain to watch, then this probably isn't going to change your mind.
25 of 25 episodes seen
In short, I enjoyed the series and still find that its virtues and sheer fun factor outweigh its objective flaws, but I'm worried about the future. Whether or not the inevitable sequel picks up the slack, addresses existing concerns or drops the ball completely is something that only Sunrise knows at this point. In any case, we might as well enjoy what we can.
The premise is melodramatic and ambitious enough. Lelouch, the protagonist, is embarking on a personal quest through the use of his intellect and a mysterious power, motivated by personal revenge and morally ambiguous altruism. The setting is divided into two spheres, the edgier world of military/politics and the more carefree environment of the Ashford academy, with their respective casts of characters. There's a clear element of mecha action here as well, even if it's not really the main attraction and doesn't dominate the show.
The pace is definitely fast and unrelenting...perhaps it's all a bit much for Lelouch's and the story's own good, though, as things turn out. The writing and direction can be uneven during the weaker moments, but are absolutely thrilling at their best. Most of it develops quite nicely, with some general predictability and a few genuine surprises that keep things interesting.
The biggest concerns are certain major twists which threaten to overwhelm the viewer, if they are not enjoyed or understood. Intentional and unintentional humor, such as Pizza Hut's sponsorship or many over the top sequences, can be occasionally distracting as well. I personally felt that the basic focus is never lost, however, when all is said and done, in spite of a few undeniable blunders or red herrings.
In the end, we've only seen half the story and, for better or for worse, the upcoming sequel has the responsibility of providing true resolution. Or at least trying to do so in an interesting way, whether it fails or succeeds at it.
Production values are good and tend to stay consistent. I've never been a CLAMP fan, mostly due to unfamiliarity, so their original character designs for Code Geass -while distinctive and attractive- don't really impress me too much. They may also look strange from certain angles. The mechanical designs are just fine for the show's purposes, with a couple of particularly well done models.
The music is appropriate and mostly unobtrusive, whether the mood is serious, exciting, relaxed, mischievous, dramatic or tragic. Not exactly the best soundtrack I've ever heard, as a few tracks could use more variety. The opening and ending themes are quite well done, as a rule, and tend to fit the show. Naturally, your mileage may vary here.
For someone who is often accused of being a copycat there are certain nuances to Lelouch's personality that set him apart, such as his emotional range and a sense of humanity emerging from his internal conflicts or character flaws. Predictably, the protagonist himself carries the show on his back and receives the most development, which is good since he does deserve much of it and this makes him an interesting subject of study. Having said that, said development has at least one major drawback: it may not be what people are expecting and finding certain events relatively disappointing or even anti-climatic is quite possible. Suzaku, who also plays an important role as Lelouch's foil, has a self-righteous personality and his interference can be very annoying to witness. He does have some complexity though, even if it's still a hard sell for those who find themselves sympathizing with Lelouch/Zero. C.C. herself is mysterious enough, as we've only seen bits and pieces of information regarding her background thus far, but remains an intriguing and generally fun character by virtue of her interactions with Lelouch.
Secondary characters tend to get some attention too, with interesting results in the major cases whether you appreciate their fates or not. The big issue for me is that the cast of characters might seem a bit too large as the show goes on, with a couple of unnecessary additions towards the later half that tend to delay, limit or rush development. Still, this is the kind of show where such size makes sense on paper given its scope, but as a result we will have to wait for the sequel in order to see if a few questionable plot threads are continued, resolved or at least replaced.
The first season of Code Geass, even though I wasn't entirely convinced about certain plot twists and openly laughed at (not necessarily with) certain sequences or developments, was certainly entertaining and rarely boring.
In short, I appreciated both the genuinely well-done portions and several of the more absurd scenarios. The show is not a masterpiece by any means, nor is it going to please every sector of the audience that it will initially attract. I'd still be perfectly happy to recommend it to those who haven't seen it, even if only to promote some discussion. read more