3 of 3 episodes seen
Much like the wonderful Riding Bean, this is much more a Hollywood movie/tv show with gunslinging action scenes, car chases, and traditional police elements, then an anime. And the fanservice here reflects that. The fanservice is actually the good kind: sensual, not creepy, doesn’t take away from the plot, and actually helps develop the cast. And this actually spices up the show. And the show has a sense of humor that works (at least for my tastes). Rally’s car is the famous 1967 Shelby GT 500, and it gets as much attention as any of the main characters do. It is a wonderful car, a joy to look at, and incredibly fast. Clearly this is a car Kenichi Sonoda likes, since it is also featured in Riding Bean. The anime has some excellently animated and well choreographed gun fights and car chases. These are action scenes done right, where we care about the results (and they just look cool to boot). I love the artwork style and presentation of it all. It has that high quality 90′s look that I just eat up. The backgrounds are photorealistic, and really help to bring the city of Chicago to life. Still to this day few series look as good as this (well maybe another gun-porn anime, Gunslinger Girl season one, looks as good). The character designs are a little cartoony, but not entirely unrealistic. There was a lot of attention put into their clothing. Not to mention the girls are easy to look at. The budget must have been through the roof on this series. The music is exciting, and has an American rock/jazz feel to it that wouldn’t seem out of place on an American cop show of the same era. The opening is easily one of the best of the 90′s. And I have to mention that the sound effects for Rally’s car are actually recordings of a real 1967 Shelby Cobra Gt500!! Blows the mind!
The dub is another great ADV job done in Houston, Texas. The dub has brilliant casting, excellent acting, a perfect script, and divine directing. This is the kind of perfect storm of a dub that is rare, but ADV often manages to pull off. In this dub everything comes together to give you one hell of a show! This is one of the best dubs of the 1990′s by far. It showcases Matt Greenfield’s excellent ADR talents, more proof he is one of the best directors in the business, and is another reason why he needs to direct more dubs today. While the script is a little loose, it never changes the intended meanings, and in fact makes the show more authentic. It is made more American, more “ chicagoan” if you will. The slight changes in the phrases said or jokes being made make it more natural and more western. Amanda Winn-Lee plays Rally and gives out another stellar performance worthy of her reputation. She fits the character very well, and her acting is spot on. Kimberly Yates’s voice may be a little high pitched, but this is the only voice that would ever fit Minnie May. Tiffany Grant plays the greedy Becky, and this is not at all who I would expect in that role. But she gives a wonderful, if unconventional for her, performance here. The star of the dub however may very well be Rob Mungle as Bill, the sleazy, unsavory ATF Agent. He has an aspect to his voice that I can only describe as “middle aged grit”. So I don’t need to mention how perfect he is for this role. It’s a shame he’s been sidelined to background voices and smaller roles over the years, as he has a real talent and great voice for these types of characters who spring up in anime often enough. In Gunsmith Cats his performance often has a whine to it (“Buuut RALLLY!?”) that seems very genuine, and his acting is top rate. Many of the other characters are cops or tough middle aged guys but they all sound great. Oh and watch out for the Matt Greenfield cameo in episode one!
What is interesting about this show is the girls are the stars and the villains. The guys take a back seat to the colorful female cast who do most of the work. And boy do the girls rule! For such a “manly” show that’s pretty much gun-porn and car-porn, we have a strong female cast of characters that make the show very original. The OVA is highly researched, with thanks given to the A.T.F. , The Chicago Police Department, Cook County Sherifs Office, the Chief of Police,2 homicide detectives, ordinary street cops, and plenty of others. The anime team made multiple trips to the United States to scout locations and photograph the city of Chicago and surrounding areas. They also became familiar with firearms while in Chicago, since guns are nearly outlawed completely in Japan (except for the police), this is their only real opportunity to get an up close experience with guns of all types. The anime crew did a lot of work before even starting on this show, and it all paid off completely. You can easily see the care Takeshi Mori and his team took to put this all together. The only problem with the show is it is too short!
ADV Films put this out on DVD twice, originally in 2001 and then again in 2004 under their Anime Essentials product line. I have the original DVD release, since it was cheaper to buy new at the time. Both DVDs have the entire 3 episode OVA series, with dub and original Japanese audio with subtitles on it. This show is long out of print, and scalpers on Amazon seem to be asking a pretty penny for both releases, but used copies are more reasonable. I’m just glad I got this brand-new when I did. But it is really worth tracking down this classic. ADV’s DVDs tack on a 40 minute extra feature at the end of the show. The extra feature is about the making of the OVA, which is partially dubbed/narrated by Amanda Winn-Lee. This extra has interviews with the animation’s staff, the original mangaka, features their home video recording of the staff’s trips to Chicago, and plenty of other goodies. This is the kind of extra we rarely get anymore but is really interesting. Dark Horse Comics put out the manga and that’s worth looking into as well.
(original review posted here: http://predederva.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/gunsmith-cats/ )
1 of 1 episodes seen
Patlabor 2: The Movie was helmed by Headgear, with Mamoru Oshii directing. This is a film that requires you to be familiar with the cast of Patlabor. I’d say checking out some of the episodes of the TV series and watching the first movie would suffice*. I understand that is a lot to ask, but doing so allows you to fully understand this movie, and thus is hugely rewarding. Patlabor takes place in the not-so-distant future where “labors” (robots) have taken the lead in industry, construction, and mechanics . Patlabors (potrol + labor) are police labors used to deal with incidents involving labors, or used in situations where a robot would come in handy for the police force of Tokyo. At any rate this film takes place a few years after the first one left off. Many of the stars of the series have moved on to bigger and better things, having been promoted to higher ranks, gone back to their homes overseas, or retired from the police force all together. What we are left with is essentially Goto, Nagumo, Noa, and Asuma. Although you can bet a few of the old characters will pop up to become the supporting cast. However the film wisely focuses in on Goto and Nagumo, as this is their story, and they are easily the most interesting characters in the franchise so it’s great to see them get their own story. It would have been tempting to again focus on the younger characters, but this bold move really pays off. Goto is a middle aged captain of the Patlabor units, a brilliant strategist, with chess master-like forethought. He is a manipulate, brilliant man, who is always one step ahead of everyone around him. But he is perhaps too smart for his own good, being exiled to an unimportant area of Tokyo (a common tactic used in Japanese government to get rid of people those with power have no use for). Captain Nagumo shares power with Goto in this film, due to reasons I won’t get into. Nagumo is a more by-the books boss, she’s intelligent and usually cold emotionally, but easily angered when others do not see things her way.
The film starts off with a battle involving U.N. Peacekeeping Forces (using labors) in Southeast Asia (yah! the U.N. rules !) in which only one man survives, and then cuts to the familiar characters in Tokyo. It is not entirely clear how this battle is relevant until much later in the film. In Tokyo a terroristic attack on a major bridge has the public confused and shocked. Much of the blame seems to be being put on the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) from the media. Things escalate quite fast, and right when it seems like it has to have been the JSDF eager to begin a coup d’état, a high ranking JSDF officer, Shigeki Arakawa shows up asking to see “the captain” of Section 2 (the Patlabor division), unsure if he means Goto or Nagumo the police let him meet with both of them. Shigeki Arakawa quickly gets to the point, that this is not some type of coup d’état, but just clear terrorist attacks being orchestrated by a band of followers of the man who survived the U.N. Peacekeeping mission in Southeast Asia. And so Goto, Nagumo, and Arakawa begin an investigation to try and get to the bottom of all this, all while relations between the Tokyo police and JSDF sour.
Patlabor 2: The Movie is one part political thriller, one part police procedural/mystery, one part character drama, with a dash of mecha added, because hey this is Patlabor after all! The comedic elements so prevalent in the TV series takes a backseat in this movie, but it does spring up from time to time. The film is frequently poetic, often taking it’s time to let you think about what is going on, and what the film’s themes are. It’s slow sure, but the pace picks up bit by bit, and becomes a tad suspenseful. It is a complex film, dialogue heavy (but never wasted) and feels like an Oshii flick. One of the best parts of the film is some heavy philosophizing by Goto and Arakawa. They discuss how Japan’s apparent and relative peace (and economic development) is based somewhat on foreign wars. The Japanese remove themselves from these wars, feelingit has nothing to do with them, or perhaps they are only lying to themselves. Maybe everyone knows the truth. Additionally the concept of a just war verses an unjust peace comes up. Not to mention the film asks the very pressing questions: what is the purpose of the JSDF? What is the true job of the Tokyo Police? What are these organizations supposed to do? What are they there to defend? This film came out during, and reflects, an important time in Japanese foreign affairs where the nation was finally becoming more willing to engage overseas by using the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (in peacekeeping missions for the United Nations). After so many years of refraining from using the military in anyway overseas, what would be next for Japan? Although Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution renounces war and the threat of force as a means to settle disputes, Japanese soldiers are still somehow deployed overseas and engaged in combat. In fact some even died. The JSDF was created to be a purely defensive force, but how far can those definitions be stretched and how leniently can they keep interpreting Article 9? Since this film has been made a contingent of the JSDF have been deployed in Mozambique, Iraq, Nepal, and the Golan Heights. While supposedly only there for humanitarian, peace keeping, reconstruction, or assistance, it really stretches the limits of Article 9. Oshii’s concerns were very valid.
The art is in a style I’ve come to love, traditional Production I.G. looks, with realistic character designs, wonderful backgrounds, and a subdued but beautiful color-tone. The animation while really great, will not completely blow you away. There are some interesting “camera angels” used, like extensive use of the fisheye lens. The music was done by Kenji Kawai whose soundtrack is almost spiritual. Bandai Visual’s Los Angeles dub sounds bored and uninspired. The actors are all uninterested and seem like they could have used better direction or something. This is a professional sounding dub, just not a very good one. Manga Video’s London Dub was directed by Michael Bakewell, one of the best and most interesting ADR Directors, and it boggles the mind why this dub is excluded from Bandai Visual’s release. Why did they even re-dub it at all but not dub other films they released that had no dubs? Manga Video’s dub stars one of my favorite actors, Peter Marinker as Goto, and he yet again delivers a performance that blew me away. Not to mention the script is a thousand times better and this dub just flows more naturally. The L.A. dub is a bit stilted and makes the film harder to comprehend then it should be. Bandai Visuals DVD case looks amazing, with two wonderfully detailed booklets and tons of extra features. But the lack of the better dub is hugely disappointing and frankly a stupid decision.
If I can find a problem in this film, it is that Oshii obviously wants to tell a very political story, but seems to have been forced yet again to revisit the same old franchise, one it appears he has already moved on from. But he handles this well enough. While Oshii wants to tell a political film, he only has police officers to work with here, so there are a few contrivances you will have to overlook. And the Patlabors are, for most of the film, not even used. But these are easily forgiven as the rest of the script is excellently written. The film is a mature, political, and thoughtful work that only older audiences will fully understand. This is a classic in every meaning of the word.
* I am well aware this movie takes place in a different continuity then the TV series, and actually follows the OVA series. But until that is re-released by Maiden Japan, it is difficult to come by legally.
(review originally posted at: http://predederva.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/patlabor-2-the-movie/ ) read more
13 of 13 episodes seen
In an alternate 1960′s, or maybe the present that just seems like the era of peace and love never truly went away (the series never actually makes it clear which it is), exists a top-secret agency known as Cloud 7. Cloud 7′s role is to protect the royal family of the country of Ishtar, a fictional version of the United Kingdom. Cloud 7′s top agents, Jack Hofner and Rowe Rikenbacker, go by the code name L/R, but who is the L and who is the R? Licensed by Royalty follows Jack and Rowe as their missions lead them from protecting the national treasures of Ishtar from would-be-thieves, to helping people trapped in a cable car in the capital city, to eventually protecting the royal family from a terroristic organization known only as Angel. The first few episodes have no overarching plot, but drop enough hints that when the plot does take off it all makes sense. Eventually the series also deals with a little girl named Noelle from the country of Ivory (Ireland) who may or may not be the long lost princess. The early episodes that have little to do with the grander storyline all have a mystery or twist in them that is not revealed (usually dramatically) until the end. Much like the wonderful Case Closed/Detective Conan our heros usually have it figured out before the viewer does, and Rowe and Jack usually make a big reveal at the end of each episode that always got me. After awhile I was expecting a twist or mystery or some big reveal when the episode was almost over, and still was tricked. The show intentionally misleads the viewer, with plenty of red herrings, and shows you its left hand, while discretely maneuvering its right to where it really matters without you noticing (like any good magician). It is quite a smart show in how it keeps what is really going on in each episode hidden until the very end. Once the plot really kicks in this happens less often, that is until the dramatic ending which will have you guessing how it will all really end until the very last second. **(Spoiler) ** The plot also contains a bit of British vs Irish nationalism (à la The Troubles in Northern Ireland), but just like in real life the real bad guys are not any ethnic group or religion, but multinational corporations. I felt this aspect of the series worked quite well. **(spoiler end)**
The intelligent and wonderfully written mysteries and twists are only part of this series charm. The other giant draw here is the great characters, and how they play off one another. Jack Hofner is the playboy part of the duo, who is still quite serious about his job, yet gives off an aura of cool. Rowe Rikenbacker on the other hand is much more laid back, and not nearly as much of a philanderer as Jack. Jack, to me anyway, was the more relatable and interesting character. He is the director’s favorite and more likable of the two. Jack looks happy the entire series, always smiling and joking around, but really he keeps his emotions hidden inside, unlike Rowe who wears them on his sleeve. Did I mention that two spies are not above donning silly disguises if it will get the job done? Their boss’s codename is Mister, who is an always serious, cold, and cunning kind of guy. You are never exactly sure what Mister is thinking or what he knows. Claire Pennylane is the secretary of Cloud 7 who ends up (out of necessary) getting involved in missions despite not truly being a field agent. Her lack of experience shows, but she’s usually smart enough to work her way out of any problems that arise. She is a bit of an spaz at times, but she has a heart of gold. Claire is not entirely interesting as a character, nor is she very well developed. Dez is the agencies go-to tech guy, pretty much he’s the one who makes all the super cool gadgets Jack and Rowe use. He’s a generic wacky scientists, who is definitely out there, but a very likable guy. Dez is not exactly a unique character, but he’s always funny. As the series progresses the two agents end up having to be bodyguards to a cute, but resourceful little Irish girl named Noelle. Although Jack is my favorite character, Noelle gives him some real competition. She is a very sweet and cute girl that you just want to hug. She’s strong willed, smart, and crafty, but she’s still a child and the show never forgets this. There are little nuances like the fact she hates shoes and loves to go barefoot, or the nursery rhyme she likes to recite that make her character very lifelike. Jack and Rowe end up having to protect her from various mooks throughout different points of series. The differences between how Jack and Rowe care about her is important. Rowe cares for Noelle very deeply, in a fatherlike manner, and he’s much closer to her then Jack. They become true friends. Jack on the other hand stays at a little distance from her, perhaps never truly warming up to her, but he still clearly cares for her even if he hides this a little. The series really shines however when the characters play off one another. It is Jack and Rowe’s interactions and chatter that really makes this show noteworthy, and it is something you will have to see for yourself. Some of the best moments of the show are not the cool action scenes, but Jack and Rowe teaching a lesson to a rude British businessman and his nearly-as-rude associate .
There are some real funny moments that I won’t spoil, a great running gag or two, and plenty of fun moments. But it’s not just a comedy as there are serious spy action scenes in every episode. There’s also the few, but jaw-dropping, scenes that can only be described as crowning moments of awesome that really blow you away. The series also has plenty of heartwarming scenes throughout. Not to mention the show is sometimes just plainly the definition of cool. Between the great personalities of the lead characters, their amazingly exciting job, all their neat gadgets and wicked cars (1,2), and the 60′s-ness of it all, you’ll be taken aback by the cool factor many times. The atmosphere and mood is just dripping with style. And like I said this is not at all a dumb series, it is very intelligently written and the twists and turns are top notch. But all this coolness and intelligence would be wasted if it didn’t have a look and sound that matched it. Luckily for us the powers that be at TNK blew one out of the ballpark. The series opener is easily one of the best of the decade, although it’s easy to see why when one merely looks at who the singer is. Billy Preston, who some called ”the fifth Beatle”, sang the opening theme song (side note: John Lennon at one point really considered making him a full time member of the band but Paul McCartney said there was enough drama with just the four of them). Preston worked with the Beatles on some of their best albums ( Abbey Road, Let it Be, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) not to mention putting out a few classics of his own. The rest of the soundtrack follows suite, with a totally 60′s British/American-rock inspired score. This all melds perfectly with the 007/spy nature of the series. The look of the show also does not disappoint. Character designs are unique (Noelle is to die for), the backgrounds look good, and the animation is top notch.
With all these things going for it a poor dub could have really stopped the show dead in it’s tracks, but New Generation Pictures got a hold of this one, and they live up to the high standards I hold them too. NGP got many British actors to work on the show, and those who are not British put on authentic sounding British accents, clearly trained a little by the Brits on staff. And the Irish (well Ivory) character’s have great Irish accents too. But more then excellent accents, the show has top notch acting and brilliant casting. Freddy Douglas’s voice is just sly and playful enough to play Jack perfectly. I could not imagine another voice coming from that character. J.B. Blanc (ADR Director) brilliantly cast himself as Rowe and the emotion in his voice makes Rowe very believable. Heather Klinke, who I sadly haven’t heard in anything else, plays a convincing and cute little Irish lass that is so adorable, but fits the character altogether. The timing on all the gags and jokes work quite well, and not even one actor in the show has a bad line. Dare I say it, but this is one of those shows that everyone (even sub fans) should watch in English. The British and Irish accents totally makes the show work, as these are supposed to be British and Irish people, and the acting is really excellent throughout.
Geneon put this out on DVD in late 2003 and early 2004, and the artbox for it (which I own) is quite nice to look at. The only extra worth mentioning is on the last disc, and it is an interview with both the director and producer at Otakon 2003. The director, Itsuro Kawasaki, notes that the first episode is by far his favorite, and hey it’s my favorite too! Itsuro Kawasaki wrote the script for episode one himself, and said he “added everything he wanted” in it. This extra care really shows, as episode one comes together incredibly, both as a brilliant way to introduce the main cast, and showcase what the show will be doing for the next 12 episodes. They pulled out all the stops for this episode and the mystery in it is brilliant. The rest of the interview asks both the producer and director their impressions of Otakon 2003, their favorite characters, favorite episode(s), the main appeal of the show, and to describe any problems that happened during production. All of this is very interesting, and I wish shows being released on DVD/Blu-ray today had extra features like this on them as it is very insightful.
The show is a fun, yet somewhat serious spy show that is throughly entertaining. It is very smart, and at times it can be a little sexy. Each episode will have you guessing who the real bad guys are or what that guy is really up to, yet also has well choreographed action scenes too. There’s great character interactions, and good running gags throughout, not to mention it sounds and looks good too. Sure some of the side characters are not well developed or sort of generic, yes yes the bad guys motives and characters are rarely explored, and yeah it may not be a title that stays with you forever. But, let’s not make perfect the enemy of good. I for one am upset it took me this long to watch Licensed by Royalty, and hope others give it a chance.
(review originally posted: http://predederva.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/licensed-by-royalty/ ) read more
2 of 2 episodes seen
Yoshiyuki Otomo is a member of a group of freelance spies committing industrial espionage against the Constans Corporation, on orders from a rival corporation (that we never learn the identify of this rival corporation is probably for the better considering the short running time of this two part OVA). The Constans Corporation is primarily in charge of running the day-to-day operations of the first lunar city (encased in a glass bubble). Yes this is a tale about the colonization of the moon. Yoshiyuki’s team includes his boss the very serious Shoko, and Kei. Yoshiyuki seems very preoccupied, his girlfriend died some time in the recent past and this still weighs heavily on him. I can’t tell you much more about these characters, because the anime simply didn’t tell me much about them either. I figure Kei is some type of mechanical export, but that’s just speculation. I just love the opening scene of this OVA and the song that plays afterwards. It sets up the story pretty well and just excited me. The three spies are on a spaceship to the moon (that looks much like an airplane) and Shoko is trying to blend in. She’s all perky, cheerful, bubbly, and teasing. If there’s one aspect of her character that is explored (I admit very lightly) it is the great acting ability she has, to pretend to be an obnoxious tourist so well. Yoshiyuki is way to preoccupied by his laptop, and Shoko warns him that he doesn’t look much like a tourist with his nose buried in his work there. Kei just seems to sit on the plane and not do much, just like he does for the rest of the anime. Anyway the three spies are on the moon investigating Constans Corporation, with the approval to commit sabotage if necessary. Their client believes the Constans Corporation is currently arming the moon (weaponizing space has been outlawed), and this could give Contstans a giant advantage if it is true. The spy trio’s client has detected an unusual amount of “electro magnetic electricity” (surely that’s a thing) coming from the moon. But as the plot unfolds we learn that the truth may be much stranger and involve ancient alien ruins discovered by the company and possibly a surviving alien or two (à la Total Recall). While investigating the cause of the high levels of ”electro magnetic electricity” and the Constans Corporation, our heros run into goons sent from the corporation. These mooks, and the company itself are not evil, and the show makes a very big point about this. In fact it does so so strongly that at times I feel like the spy trio are really the bad guys. The thugs sent from the company are ordered not to kill the spies, and try to capture them alive. Their multiple entanglements with the spies over the anime put this to the test, and they never resort to killing anyone, even when their own men are killed by the spies. While investigating the company the spies learn many secrets, all much larger then the industrial espionage they are committing. Personally I like how the mystery of the true explanation of where the moon came from, the source of the strange ”electro magnetic electricity”, the engrossing spy story, and the story of Yoshiyuki’s girlfriend all intersect. There isn’t one explanation but many things going on, all grander then the characters involved. In addition to all this there is a cute girl who keeps appearing to Yoshiyuki and then quickly disappearing, almost magically.
There’s plenty of cool tech to go around in this 90′s sci-fi OVA. A favorite of mine is the really cool laptop Yoshiyuki uses in the first scene, that puts out tablets to shame. There’s also plenty of cool spy gadgets, like secret tape recorders in pens, tiny hidden explosives, and really cool cars. Not to mention the really neat monorail system. The story being told is very 90′s, much of it reminiscent of the original Total Recall film staring Arnold Schwarzenegger (which is a film everyone needs to see). In fact I’d say significant parts of the plot are lifted straight from that movie and the original novel it is based on, with anime twists, and these are the very best aspects of the movie. I must say there’s something about 90′s sci-fi, even the less than stellar ones that resonates with me. The story is well written (mostly), as I mentioned the way all the plot elements intersect is quite satisfying. Toward the end of the anime however things start to fall apart on the writing side. Some of the mysteries are still unanswered and so are dealt with in a sloppy exposition by a character while on the move . Now exposition in between action scenes, when the characters are on the move is not impossible to do well (After all that’s pretty much how Terminator explained everything to us). But here it just seems lazy and well frankly poorly thought out. The characters, as I mentioned before don’t have much to them. They’re pretty shallow creatures. In fact I found myself being attached much more to the corporation then the spies, because they seem like a nicer group of people.
The main problem of this anime is none of that though. The major thing wrong with Bounty Dog is the color palette. What the hell happened here? Everything in this entire anime looks all washed out. It is all piss yellow or puke green shaded. It all looks ugly! The art designs look good, in fact I love the technology and the character designs are good. The animation is alright, although minimal at times. But the color of it all is garbage! Did they run out of other colors? Were they trying to save money? Are they trying to make the show look cool by coloring it all yellow? Whatever the reason for it, it looks horrible. I hate this piss yellow colored stuff. It doesn’t help that the video quality on Manga Entertainments DVD is terrible (and as I’m sure you all know I’m never one to complain about that). Even Manga Entertainment’s DVD menus are this ugly yellow. Eww keep it away from me!
The music of this anime is a huge strength. The soundtrack is quite good, it seems somewhat inspired by Total Recall and other early 90′s sci-fi, and I must say it is all very catchy and listenable. The dub for this anime is another Manga Video job done in London, England (with American accents) and directed by my favorite, Michael Bakewell. While this dub is not his very best work, it lives up the high standards I have for Mr. Bakewell’s dubs. While there are a few curses in this, they are used very rarely and are entirely fitting. Peter Marinker plays one of the important corporate big-shots, and once again does a magnificent job. Whenever he speaks it’s like a lesson to other actors as to how to act. He makes the corporate big shot seem likable, realistic, human, and understandable. Yet he still makes you get the feeling that this guy is working on some morally grey projects for the company. Stephen Grat plays Yoshiyuki and he seems a little bored at times. But he fits the character well enough. He’s great during the more subdued emotional scenes, but does overact a bit during the more in-your-face scenes. I liked his voice, and thought it matched the character well. Shoko is played by Toni Barry, who I’ll always remember as Leona Ozaki from Dominion Tank Police. Just like her performance in Dominion, she does a top notch job. Toni Barry is perky, cheerful, excitable, and fun when she’s pretending to be a tourist and does this wonderfully. It is all an act, and you figure this out quite fast however as the real Shoko is deadly serious, and firm. And Toni Barry captures this aspect of her personality perfectly as well. Teresa Gallagher (the President’s daughter Sayaka Rama,in Demon City Shinjuku) plays Ines, the girl who keeps mysteriously appearing and disappearing over the course of the OVA. Teresa Gallagher again gives a great performance, interpreting this mysterious girl as cute sounding, odd, adorable, shy, but knowledgable person. I really like how perky and playful she can be at times too. She’s even better in this then in Demon City as I liked the American accent she put on here as opposed to her real real British accent that she used in Demon City. I also recognized Bob Sherman’s voice as one of the executives at Constans Corporation, and again he does a terrific job. Some of the minor characters seem bored and this is a problem. Many small roles seem a little cheesy, but never enough to ruin the dub. I liked the small sci-fi touches they added like computer voices on the phone, in the backgrounds, futuristic news reporters and such. There’s also a few jokes early on, one involving an 87 year old women who is rather eager to let you know that she “remembers when Clinton was President” (which was probably a funnier joke in the 90′s). The dub also seems a little liberal, making references to very American things a few times (the Superbowl being one of them). I can’t confirm this though because for some reason there is neither a Japanese audio track or subtitles. I do not understand this. What the hell Manga Entertainment
No one else seems to even like this anime a little bit. And I understand why they hate it. But it’s not that bad is it? I’ve tried to sit through MD Geist but could not, I barely finished and totally regretting the train wreck that is Kai Doh Maru (how did an anime so bad even end up on US television multiple times?). I watched some of Night Shift Nurses at my friend’s house once and that was so bad from time to time I get vietnam vet-like flashbacks. Although I came home that day, a part of me is still fighting the battle in that forbidden hospital ward. There were eggs…Oh god why where there eggs?. Usually eggs don’t go there, but there they were, oh please tell me why did she have eggs!? ….uh…As I was saying…Garzey’s Wing is one of my favorite horrible anime series (a great DVD to pop on when you have people over and play in the background), and I saw Psychic Wars 3 times now, an OVA so bad I want a refund and I have’t even purchased the damn thing yet. I am convinced on each time I watched it I lost more neurons then if I had spent the time sniffing airplane glue and then following that up with a bit of binge drinking. So I think I know what I’m talking about when it comes to god awful anime. I know I’ve been pretty harsh on this at times, but I still think it’s central story is solid and really worth a watch. It has major problems that’s for sure, but there’s plenty here to like too. Some of the problems like no Japanese audio and the yellow color scheme just boggles the mind. Other problems like a rushed final act with cheap exposition, and undeveloped characters are easier to overlook. I think this anime is a good way to kill an hour. It never wanted to be more then that either. This is an anime that if it had more time to finish off the story in a proper way, and develop the characters could have been really good. They even could have added some more interesting themes. Instead it just sort of lies there. Well at least it is entertaining. Much like Total Recall you’re never sure how far the conspiracy goes, or if there is one at all. What is really going on on the moon, and how are aliens involved? This aspect is the part of the movie that works the best. One important thing to mention is that while most of this isn’t very violent or sexual, there is one or two brief scenes of nudity. Also the one scene that is violent is pretty horrible. At one point in the anime Yoshiyuki beats the living crap out of 2 girls with his bare hands. He ends up punching one of them to a bloody pulp, and then smashing her head into a wall until she slowly dies in agony. The other one gets beat up and then violently shot to death. This is a little tough to watch. I mean I’m all for violence but the way in which he beats the living daylights out of a girl seems abusive. The dvd for this is still easy and cheap to buy off Amazon. For the cheap price it’s worth it. Just don’t spend too much on it. Why did I end up writing so much about Bounty Dog?
(review originally posted: http://predederva.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/bounty-dog/ ) read more
1 of 1 episodes seen
Well I best explain the plot. In the future a communist terrorist, Kuki Kosaburo, living in France gets involved with the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (French Secret Service) in spying on the CIA. You see the French government agreed to helping the CIA operate more in the country, but the CIA and United States Government is not keeping France up to date on everything that’s going on. In fact they are specifically keeping France in the dark on many secret missions. Monsieur Lassar, a higher up in the French secret service, believes there is a connection between a recent attack on a NASA base in the Arizona desert and a corpse of a CIA agent found in Paris. This makes Lassar nervous, believing there may be a big terrorists attack planed for Paris, yet he can’t be seen to be investigating an allie. So he finds a terrorist/secret agent (and Kuki is a rather good one at that. We learn for example that Kuki was resposible for some ridiculous plot involving crashing a Drone Aircraft into the center of Tokyo, thus crashing the Nikkei Stock Average ) and arrests him on trumped up charges, forcing him to spy on the CIA or end up in prison. Kuki eventually learns that the famous film star Lamia Vindaw is at the center of everything. Both the CIA and the terrorists are spying on her, waiting to make their move. Toss into the batch the rumors going around that the terrorist are really a vampire clan, and well you have a crazy action film worth watching. A film that uses roughly the same amount of bullets used in all of World War II (including the Second Sino-Japanese War).
I will admit I first went into Vampire Wars expecting either Crying Freeman level ridiculous and hilarious fight scenes, gore, and violence; or a train wreck like Psychic Wars (may God have mercy on your soul if you’ve seen this one). I was however was presently surprised that Vampire Wars is neither a ridiculous (but cool!) anime where people have 4 minute conversations with knives sticking out of their head (and stomach!), nor is it a boring anime where a doctor fights bigger versions of the cookie monster with the help of time travel and a giant sword he randomly finds on the road. I’d compare this to a Yoshiaki Kawajiri anime, although not nearly as well choreographed. It is merely a solid action movie, nothing more and nothing less. Sure the plot is a tad crazy, and the fights are exaggerated, but the main character is a badass and it’s an entertaining film. And like any good early 90′s OVA, there’s a sex scene (which I find hilarious, Kuki just sleeps with some random informant who he meet 10 seconds ago!) . The fight scenes in this OVA are pretty fun to watch, although as it goes on it becomes more and more unbelievable. But it’s an exciting film, and I can’t be too tough on it for trying to increase the excitement as it goes fourth. The characters are all pretty good, although very 2-dimensional. Kuki is an interesting guy. A die-hard communist, bent on bringing down capitalism by killing civilians. Yet he still desperately holds onto some sort of moral code. Besides claiming to be outright against killing innocent people (which is clearly a lie he tells himself to sleep at night) he treats his hooker neighbors quite well (tossing them wads of cash for no good reason). Kuki may be my favorite character, but the scheming Monsieur Lassar is also pretty interesting. As is Lassar’s meathead right hand man. The leader of the vampire clan/terrorists is another intriguing character. And although the movie star, Lamia Vindaw, is very cute looking I personally never bought into her. She seemed both unrealistic and too strange. But I suppose this makes sense when you learn about her more. But sorry I was never really a fan of hers. She came off as far too annoying.
As far as the story goes here, it’s not terrible and in fact at times is pretty damn interesting. I do feel as though EVERYTHING is moving way to fast, like the writers are in a rush to get to the next super-cool action scene though. Take a chill pill mr.writer, let the story blossom, don’t vomit it at me. But with a time frame of 40 minutes to work with, I guess it does have to move along at a rapid pace. And although the story falls apart at the end, I do have to commend the writers for keeping it together for as long as they did. When they’re not rushing us to the next ultra-violent action scene, they do their job at developing the story and making it come together quite well. The mystery of exactly what the CIA is up to, who or what the vampires are, and how this all involves a hollywood actor is played off quite nicely. Which is something the writers of Psychic Wars completely forgot about, you know actually writing a story not just action scenes that make no sense, or worse bore you to tears (Yes I so have to destroy this anime in a review one day). And although I do admit Kuki changes sides too much for a short OVA like this (preferably the audience should be entirely sure where his allegiance lies if the story is this short), it’s still all manages to work quite well and make sense (until…THAT ENDING). Well I’ll pretend that character who randomly not only knows how to pilot a helicopter, but also owns one isn’t a terribly written deus ex machina. I mean they had to find some way to move the plot along…and besides I know plenty of people who own choppers, don’t you?
The artwork in Vampire Wars is quite plain. Still I liked the art style, it’s got that “manime look” you rarely see today. All the characters are uniquely designed, although no one is that impressive. The guys are all tough brutes, and the girls are sex bombs (except for Lamia who’s very elegant and cute looking). The anime mostly takes place at night, and I think the artsist do this a real diservice. Night scenes in anime can look gorgeous if well lit (think Megazone 23, Bubblegum Crisis, Akira, Cyber City), but the there is a real problem with lighting in this OVA. Some scenes are way to dark, and it just ruins the atmosphere. You also have a hard time seeing everything on screen. The artists who worked on this need a refreshing course in how to make anime. The animation is rather sub-par here too. They cut corners where they could. But it’s not a super cheap effort or anything like that, the action scenes are alright. The music however is very likable. The background music is mostly an exciting rock anthem that really melds well with both the vampire and action aspects of the anime.
If you will listen to dub, be prepared for some cheesy accents, and lackluster acting. The dub was produced at CTV studios Toronto (as far as I can tell anyway), using Canadian and British actors. Roger May plays Kuki, and he has the right voice quality for the job, and overall I do think he holds the dub together. That being said he does overact, and makes the show seem a little campy. But considering where the plot goes toward the end, I can’t blame him for the camp too much. Julia Brahms, who I liked in Appleseed did a pretty bad job here. It’s not that she’s a bad actor , nor is it that she doesn’t fit the role (I totally understand why she was cast as this girl), it’s just that she seems disinterested. She is rather unmotivated, and I can almost hear her (under her breath) contemplating exactly what choices in life lead her to be dubbing Vampire Wars on this very day. That being said at times she’s quite good, especially when she isn’t crying or worried (and also before the final third of the film…). Uh…to put this in a better way, she’s quite good early on in the film. Frank Rozelaar-Green plays Monsieur Lassar and he puts on a terribly cheesy French accent. But his acting was pretty good, and I pretty much bought him. But the star of the dub (as he usually is in anything they cast him in) is without a doubt the brilliant Peter Marinker as the head of the Vampire clan/terrorists. He made what otherwise would have been a campy character: sincere, realistic, believable, understandable and dare I say likable? Yes Peter Marinker does it again. And when he wants to be he can be damn near frighting. I will write Funimation, Ocean, or Seraphim Digital a check if they promise to cast Peter Marinker in a dub as a main character. Please? Give this guy some work! The person who plays Lassar’s right hand man is laughably bad. He puts on some corny deep voice that just seems so very fake. It sounds like he never heard what a deep voice actually sounds like (like he grew up in some weird alternate reality where everyone sounds like the chipmunks), but this is what he thinks it would sound like and damn it he’s going to talk like this the entire dub whether it makes any logical sense or not! *Spoiler* I especially like his death scene in which he cries on and on and on and won’t stop. Soda almost came out of my nose when this happened. *End Spoiler* . Most of the rest of the cast seem either bored, or worse can’t act. I’d describe this dub as a finding a diamond ring (Peter Marinker) in a garbage dump, and then noticing a spare tire with a dirty banana peel on it ( Roger May) you could use next to it. I can’t say I recommend this dub, but if you’re up for dumpster diving, it won’t destroy your soul. I wish Manga Entertainment had instead given this to their studio in London and let Michael Bakewell direct. But it is what it is.
Now to talk about the ending I keep alluding to. Three-fourths into the anime everything clearly falls apart. Sure it never gets to Psychic Wars-level, but I have to wonder exactly what happened here. Did the writers just stop trying? I mean this was never a masterpiece of cinema to begin with, but the ending is just entirely stupid. I won’t spoil anything here but when you watch it for yourself, try not to hurt yourself when you bang your head after hearing that final exposition the leader of the vampires babbles out. It’s quite rare for a movie to take such a nose dive at the end like this. It’s like we were flying comfortably at 30,000 feet when all of a sudden not only does the place crash, but it ends up hundreds of yards underground in a crater. It’s truly that bad. It’s a shame the writers gave up trying, because there’s a lot to like here. I do think you should see it, especially if you like old actiony OVAs. Just pretend the ending really didn’t happen, we all do. Manga Entertainment put this out on DVD, so you can pick it up if you like. Although it is out of print, it’s still very easy to find.
(review originally posted: http://predederva.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/vampire-wars ) read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
Petite Princess Yucie started as a video game series, aptly named Princess Maker. These video games, also by Gainax, are about creating a character, finding clothes for her, and getting her jobs and such. The goal is for you to keep working your character up the career ladder, until you reach a prestigious job, or fall from the ranks and end up in a dead end job or something. The game even includes such jobs as prostitute and crime, so I don't really think they are for children. The game is famous for having over 70 different types of endings. Quite a feat in the early 90's when they were released. However the anime is free from anything risque, adult, mature, or graphic in nature. It seems to have taken the basic themes of games, and turned it into a true magical girl anime that could be watched by anyone (and it should be watched by everyone!). This is the perfect series to watch with children, but adults will like it too. The anime was created in 2002 and directed by Masahiko Otsuka. Otsuka is a veteran of Gainax Studios, but this is his first time directing something on his own, although he has co-directed many titles before. And I must say he has his own style, and helps make this series become something very special. In some ways it's very different then a regular Gainax series, but in other ways its deeply rooted in their style. Anyway, I do hope to see more series directed by the man, because he is quite talented.
As for the story, although nothing completely groundbreaking, it is very good. The setting is a standard "sword and sorcery" fantasy realm, and I really thought that gave the series a nice touch. There are dragons, mystical creatures, fairies and who knows what else out there. The show revolves around Yucie, a 17 year old girl, who's stopped growing at age 10. Yucie wants nothing more then to age like a normal girl, so people will take her seriously. This is very understandable, I mean everyone takes one look at her and thinks she's a child, not some older teenager. And I doubt many people would believe her, if she told them her real age. But she has another reason why she wants to be normal. When she was a young girl, she was saved by a little boy but never got the chance to thank him. By now he would be grown up, but she still looks like a little kid. She wants to properly thank the boy, and feels she can only do so if she looks her age. She also seemed to have developed a bit of a crush on the boy, even though she would never admit this. And what kind of a proper relationship could he have with a girl that looks like she's 10!? Yucie ends up being thrown into this whole "Platinum Princess Candidate" thing going on at the town. Whoever can find something in the castle can become a Platinum Princess Candidate, and Yucie sees a light at the top of the castle, and she's instantly drawn to it. When she makes her way to the light, she finds the Queen of the castle there, and she celebrates the fact that Yucie will become a Platinum Princess Candidate. It is revealed that once every thousand years a group of girls are chosen to be candidates, and one of them will eventually become the Platinum Princess, will be given the Eternal Teairra, and granted one wish. Luck (or faith) was on Yucie's side it seems. Perhaps she can get her wish to become an adult at last!
Yucie must go to the castle's own Princess Academy, and learn how to become a proper princess. At this school she slowly meets her rivals, and it becomes clear that the Platinum Princess Candidates must grow their hearts if they are to become the true Platinum Princess. As the main cast is slowly revealed we noticed that they all stopped growing at age ten. The first girl introduced is the quiet and friendly Miss Cocoloo. Cocoloo is the princess from the Spirit World. Next we have Miss Glenda, the fiery and competitive princess from the Demon World. And we also have Elmina, the stoic Princess of Heaven. Yucie and her rivals must go on jobs in which they must accomplish tasks for the townsfolks, or help them with errands, or merely babysit little children. These jobs are designed to not only help their hearts grow, but to also learn what it means to be a real princess, and become a generally good person. Each of these episodes have the girls work together to accomplish a goal, and toward the end they all learn an important less. And the lessons are never after-school special lame either. The girls, despite being rivals quickly become friends. Even though they know only one of them may get their wish, and so there may be some hardships to overcome in the future. In between these jobs, the girls must also collect the "fragments" of the Eternal Tiara, which are each in one of the many worlds (Human World, Heaven, Spirit World, etc). These episodes are usually quite light hearted, cute, and very fun to watch. There is some really funny moments in the early episodes. And despite the pattern, none of this is repetive and all of these episodes tend to move the plot along quite nicely. The series continues in this pattern until another main character is introduced (don't worry I won't spoil much). In which after this character is introduced the jobs and fragment collecting finishes up, and eventually the series heads toward a very dramatic conclusion. The last arch of this anime is quite dark, sad, and has a lot of drama. And although I loved the cute opening episodes, these last few are my favorite. The series deals with some really sad things, and although it never becomes depressing you may want to have a few tissues nearby just incase. The second to last episode is very powerful, and it's ganna hit you in the heart. There is a very beautiful and heart wrenching scene at the very end of that episode that probably will make the tears start flowing. And I really loved how the show concluded, although I suspect many will not like the ending. But I think many will enjoy the fact that every single thing is explained before it ends. And just enough back story and interlinkings of plot exists to make everyone happy. And luckily for us everything is resolved and it does end. Although I'd love to see another season of this great show. Please Ganiax? Use some of that Gurren Lagann money you guys got.
The series has many strong points, one of them being the interactions between the characters. It's just great to watch these girls become friends, and bump heads with each other along the way. I really enjoyed watching Glenda and Elmina fight with each other. The two girls are clearly friends, but they won't admit it. Glenda would usually say something about another girl not being up to her level, in a joking tone, and Elmina would always manage to turn it around on her, making Glenda seem like the butt of her own joke. Some of Elmina's lines are priceless, and since she speaks in an almost emotionless manor, it makes them even better. Since they are both princesses of the demon world and heaven respectively, it makes sense why the two fight a lot. They seem to always be at odds with each other, but manage to come together when the moment calls for it. Another thing I really liked to watch was the close friendship between Yucie and Cocoloo. And hearing Glenda joke that Yucie is a "brat" and that she's a "fantastic" and "elegant" princess never gets old. And surprisingly all the main characters evolve and change. The character development was handled quite well, and even the supporting cast changes somewhat. Each of the girls have a "steward", who helps them along their ways, and all of the girls fathers make an appearance. And of course a series like this would not be complete without a Prince as a love interest (although he may or may not turn out to be a surprise)Perhaps my favorite example of this is Glenda changing, which is clearly shown with a fight scene toward the end of the series (I'll be vague in order to avoid spoilers). Since she is from the Demon World, she has magical powers, and when she fights someone later on you can't help but feel for her. You notice how she changed and became a truly better person, caring for others more then herself. This fight was really a defining point in her evolution and I just LOVE that scene. And let me say this is one of the few series out there where I like each and every character. All the characters are interesting, unique, likable, and never annoying.
Another strength of the show is the many themes it deals with. And for this type of show it is actually quite deep. The show asks us what it truly means to grow up. Because Yucie and the others have aged, at least internally. But at times they still act like children, and their youthful bodies help to keep them young. This may be a metaphor for young adults. On one hand they look like children, but on the other hand they are mature enough to be considered adults. It's like they are trapped in between phases, in between ages. Just like the girls here, they don't fit in with the adults, but on the other hand can't relate well to the children. And their youthful appearance helps to keep them young and active. The series also deals with friendship in great detail. What does it truly mean to be ones friend? And how much do you really care about these people you label as your friend? Throughout life we will have many rivals and will bump heads many a time with them. But can we still be friends with them, despite fighting over something very dear to us? Petite Princess Yucie has a lot to say about that as well. And the series also deals with father-daughter relationships. I'm sure many fathers and daughters out there will get a lot more out of this aspect then me, but I did find it very touching and sweet. OK so this series may not come up with a new philosophy on life, or delve into quantum physics or anything like that. The plot is not overly complicated or complex either. And it doesn't dissect it's characters in classic Anno style either (although he was the supervisor on this series!). But it's certainly not some shallow throw away show either. It's not at all fluff. It has a real heart, and the story can move you and make a real impact on the viewer. To me that is a sign of good storytelling.
As for the visuals, well this is Ganiax after all, so expect some impressive stuff. For a TV series the artwork is very well detailed. It's colorful, light, and beautiful at times. The backgrounds help to give this a "fantasy" feeling, by detailing the towns, hills, valleys, and castles really well. The non-human worlds are also quite distinct, and not exactly what you'd picture. But they work quite well. Gainax seems to have ignored their other more common styles (FLCL style and Nadia style), and went with a more standard magical girl style that obviously is very fitting. Character designs are all cute, with big eyes and colorful hair styles. However the series style of characters does look different enough to help it stand out among other series. It should also be noted that AIC co-produced this with Gainax, so perhaps that's one reason why this looks so different then their other stuff. The animation is always great, and I doubt anyone would ever have a problem with it. All in all the series looks really great when everything is together. Well animated, light and colorful color palette, and great character designs. It may look a little too cute and childish for some, but I like the style.
As for the music in thsi anime, I found it to be above average. The opening is cute and fluffy, and really never fails to put a smile on my face. It has become a real favorite of mine! The background themes don't really stand out on their owns, but they are very fitting and I did really like them. There's one insert song toward the end of the series that I loved (and it's song by the English Dub actors as well who do an amazing job by the way), and the second to last episode plays a slightly different version of the opening theme that works really well with the final scene there. The ending theme is fitting, and more quiet then the opening. And it's also another good song. As for the dub, I really loved it! There's nothing anyone could ever find wrong with it. ADV gave this title to their studio in Austin, Texas to dub. Austin's studio was named Monster Island, and frankly I'm kind of sad they didn't dub more titles. Because Petite Princess Yucie was quite a dub. It's a very fresh, and expertly acted dub, with a great script and perfect casting. Rachel Rivera plays the lead, Yucie, and she does a great job. She makes Yucie quite adorable at times. You just can't help but root for Yucie, and part of that is because of Rachel Rivera's great performance. Cocoloo is played by Monika Bustamante, who has a really unique voice and helps makes the character Cocoloo come to life. Really, it's hard to imagine anyone else play that character. She has Cocoloo's quiet nature down pat, and sounds just a little strange, but not at all weird. So Cocoloo. It's hard to play the balancing act here between just a little weird, yet kind and warm, and also very quiet. But Bustamante handles this like a veteran. Kelley Huston plays Glenda, and her voice really suits the character well. She captures Glenda's more passionate side with ease. She knows exactly how to get worked up about something, and can say her little catch phrases perfectly. She always manages to get a laugh out of me. But she also knows when to tone her character down, and when Glenda's sweeter side is being shown is when Hutson really can shine. Elmina is played by Leigh Anderson Fisher, who mangaes to get her almost-emotionless state of being down pat. She can make Elmina sound distant, but not cold, monotone but still caring, and even can subtely change her tone of voice just enough for when Elmina is joking around that it sounds perfect (but never too much as to give Elmina too much emotion. After all angels in this anime are almost emotionless, stoic, and always calm or firm sounding). I must also commend David Jones, who plays Glenda's father, the Demon King.I have to say this guy is really good. He should move to Houston ASAP! I want him in more dubs! The Demon King is not at all evil, although he is a demon, so he must still sound powerful. And David Jones gets this. The Demon King really cares for his daughter with all his heart, and is always bossed around by her. David Jones does a great job at making the Demon King powerful, silly, and a little over the top, all which fit his character to a T. But he never crosses the line into annoying, which was probably hard to do. This is quite the contrast from his previous role, the cold hearted and evil Gargoyle from Nadia: Secret of Blue Water. Another role in which I really enjoyed him in. The supportive and episodic characters are all very well cast, and do a very good job as well. And almost none of the cast is recognizable There are practically no long time veterans, or fan favorite voice actors here. And so it all sounds very fresh, very new, and it stands out among the hordes of generic sounding dubs which have become the norm. This is a keeper.
So is the show perfect? Well for this type of show I would say just about. There are very few if any problems I can find with this show. Not many flaws overall. Perhaps they waste too much time early on with the light hearted stuff? And maybe it's a bit too episodic in the beginning? But I find that those episodes did add to the story, and they were never repetitive. And the early episodes are vital for fleshing out and introducing the main characters. So perhaps the biggest flaw in the show is being in the magical girl genre to begin with. Not because I personally dislike the genre, but because many will dismiss it just because of that. Which is really quite a shame because the show is worth a look at. In fact I specifically recommend this show to those who say they dislike magical girl shows. They may find that in Petite Princess Yucie, they finally have a magical girl show in which they can say they enjoyed. Ok so it probally won't change your life, but the story is very good, the characters are likeable, and it's very well done. And it's a very powerful story with a real heart. And sometimes that's just enough.
This anime is not for everyone. It's very cute, sweet, and at its heart it is a magical girl show. I mean the girls do have tranformation sequences, the show is about retrieving magical shards. Many people do not want these things in their anime, so I don't know if they would enjoy this. But it's also about growing up, and learning to love your friends and family. And it is a very powerful story. But if there's just one magical girl show you must check out, let it be Petite Princess Yucie. The show could easily be enjoyed by those that are not big fans of magical girl shows, and you will enjoy the very powerful story it has tell. One with a real heart, great characters, and great production values. It's very sad at times, but instead of focusing on only that emotion the series has you laugh along with the characters, get scared with them, get exited together, and finally grow with them. You may cry along with them, but on the large it is a very uplifting story that I cannot recommend enough. Are you manly enough to watch Petite Princess Yucie? read more
1 of 1 episodes seen
Demon City Shinjuku is and OVA from 1988, animated by Madhouse studios, and directed by none-other then Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Madhouse and Kawajiri have worked on countless other ultraviolent movies and OVAs over the years, and Urban Vision, CPM, and Manga Entertainment have released many of them here in the US, since he once had a huge following here. This movie-length OVA is very similar to his other works, perhaps too similar for it's own good. Anyway the OVA is about how the evil psychic Rebi Ra, deep within what's left of Shinjuku, Tokyo is attempting to complete a portal to hell. He is also a powerful swordsman, and seems to have sold his soul for all his powers. Once the portal to Hell is opened, demons will take over the entire planet. He must do this, because it is another price he has to pay for gaining all this power. The entire world seems to have become one single government, and it's hinted that the former countries have now become states or provinces, and that includes Japan. The World President is making a trip to Japan, when he ends up being captured by Rebi Ra in an attempt to destabilize the world, and send the world into chaos, and also prevent any counter measures against him. However he does not only kidnap the president, but his aid and spiritual adviser, Master Rai. Master Rai is well aware of who has kidnapped them and left them for dead, it is revealed that Rebi Ra is former student of his. Another student of his headed out to stop Rebi Ra many years earlier but failed and died in the process. Now all of mankind's hope rests with that man's son, a kid named Kyoya. Because only Kyoya and Master Rai have this hidden ability that could defeat Rebi Ra, and Rai must remain near the President's side or he will die and the world may fall into another dark age!
Kyoya gets contacted by Master Rai's spirit, and told he has to fight to save the earth. Kyoya explains that while it's true he learned some skills from his father, he only learned the basics before his father passed away. Master Rai pleads with him to try and save the president and defeat Rebi Ra anyway, because he doesn't, no one will. Kyoya's still not very eager to run off on some quest to save the world, and so he leaves his house and goes out for a walk. This is where he runs into the Presiden't daughter, Sayaka Rama, who tries to convince him to go with her to the city and save her father. He still refuses, and so she decides to try her luck on her own. When she gets there however she is attacked by some criminals hanging around the outskirts of the town, and Kyoya comes out of the shadows and saves her at the last second. Seems he can't let some innocent girl waltz right into the city of hell on her own. The rest of the OVA follows these two on their quest through the city, where they will meet some Escape from New York- esque allies and enemies, and finally save the day.
The main problem with this anime is it's very by-the-book, standard and unoriginal. It's even very predictable at times. It's not a bad story, but it feels like we've seen it before. Now you have to forgive it a little bit, as the OVA probably predates many other shows we've seen that have this kind of plot, but still it's nothing groundbreaking either. That's not to say that this is a bad movie by any stretch, because it's not. It's just the plot is not as strong as it should have been. The best part of the story is the initial premise of people from the outside trying to rescue to President deep within the city, and going through hell to do it. And you know what, I credit Carpenter more for that, then Kawajiri. Still it plays out decently, and many of the Escape from New York characters show up, like your token double crosser and insider who helps the main characters out a bit. And these characters are all quite interesting, although they don't get enough screen time sadly. The main character, Kyoya is actually not that interesting of a person. He's sort of boring and 2 dimensional. He's not a bad character, but probably better fit for a side character, as he's not interesting enough to carry the weight of an entire OVA. His struggle with becoming stronger, and awakening his potential is well done however. Sayaka, the President's daughter is instead a very interesting character, perhaps she should have been the lead. She's not too tough ina fight, but she's a strong willed person, eager to help if she can, and shows that she's scared, but willing to press on despite that. She feels helpless at times, but tries to do whatever she can. She's a very strong character. Her romance with Kyoya towards the end seemed forced, There was no development there, and felt like the only reason they kiss is because she's a girl, and he's a dude. The two have very little chemistry and really don't seem to be hitting it off, so why do they seem to become a couple? Because the movie needs a little romance I guess. Another interesting character is Chibi, a midget (I think?) who helps the two, and gives them pointers and hints about the city. He saves them while they're fighting a monster, and guides them to where they want to go. He's not eager to get invovled with a fight, but he won't leave anyone to die either. He's an intriguing character who probably should have been a more important character. Master Rai is another compelling who doesn't get nearly enough time to develop, but he's very likeable. The themes the movie deals with are nothing special, and sort of generic. While no one would ever go into this film looking for something very deep, it reall doesn't help that the themes of innocents, love, and inner strenght are very generic and tossed around very lightly. Perhaps if they were more explored the OVA would be a bit better.
The fights in Demon City Shinjuku are less frequent then I had imagined. But when they do come up they are very well choreographed, and very fun to watch. The main character has to fight a few demons and monsters as the show goes on, and many others get involved as well. The tone may be a little dark, but it is not at all depressing. While not a light or funny show, it's not overbearing either. Another problem with the show however is its tendency to use expository dialogue. By that I mean characters backstories, the history of the city, and even the plot are revealed through way too much dialogue. Instead of showing us what happened, the characters oddly explain things, and some of these explanations go on way too long. While I would have no problem with one or two of these, four or five in one movie is a bit much. At times when they could have used a flashback or something, they go for the easy way out and have the characters explain things. This, mixed with some sloppy writing at times really hurts the overall show. The final fight scene is also very anticlimactic. I hate to keep criticizing this OVA, as it is a fun watch and I did enjoy it. But I can't leave out these these things either. I guess what I'm saying is despite these problems it's still a good anime.
Production values for this OVA are all over the place. The animation is sometimes as choppy as a bad Yogi Bear episode, while other times everything on screen flows incredibly well. Most of the fight scenes are impressive for 1988 (very fluid motion), but other parts can either look ugly, or pretty depending on the scene. The artwork is a great style, with a very nice color palette. The color palette is dark, but not gloomy, and looks quite nice at times. The character designs are pretty original looking, and very attractive, especially the President's daughter who looks very pretty. However the opening scene, and some scenes deep within the city look very odd, with a dated looking color palette that's very different from the rest of the movie. Everything will have a blue or red tint, and it looks very ugly. This was obviously done to either emphasis how this scene is in the past, or emphasis how close the gateway to hell, is getting to earth, but they just don't work very well at all. The make the OVA look more dated then it otherwise would, since this is a pre-Akira anime after all. But other then that the visuals are quite impressive, and those scenes are quite short. The music is very electronic and unimpressive. While the soundtrack is not exactly bad, it's very generic and mostly forgettable.
The dub on this is pretty good for it's era. While I've heard better from this time, it's not at all bad. This is another one of the older Manga Video UK dubs, directed by Michael Bakewell and with mostly a British and Canadian cast. And most of the actors fit their roles very well. There is a tendency to use accents in this dub, and on the large this works quite well and gives the show a worldly sound. The President and his daughter have British accents, which is very fitting in my opinion as they seem to be Europeans, so this is a great way to emphasis that. Chibi (pronounced "Chippy" by the cast, although I'm not sure why? Perhaps that's a British thing?) has a Mexican accent which sounds a little stereotypical, but it does seem realistic and works for the character. Another character has a Spanish (Spain) accent, and this also comes off very well. Master Rai is played by George Little, and he gives the character a very authentic Indian accent, which fits since not only is his character from India, but very spiritual and he needs an accent to demonstrate this. The rest of the cast, including Brad Lavelle, who plays Kyoya, put on American accents and they seem real. The dub is mostly well acted, with all of the main cast doing a good job for the most part. Sadly it seems every major actor has an awkward line somewhere in this dub, but it's not that bad.
Brad Lavelle fits the lead very well, and has a great chemistry with George Little, specifically in the begining of the OVA. Sayaka, the President's Daughter is played by Teresa Gallagher, who gives the best performance of the dub. She has a very distinct voice, and her different sounding voice fits the character well. She puts on a British accents that some may find a little different then the norm, but she's a native Brit so you can be sure this is authentic, and personally I thought it sounded great. Chibi is played by Alan Sherman, who really fleshes out the character, with his Mexican accent, and adult way of talking. The Japanese dub made him seem more like a child, which I'm pretty sure he's not one. He plays off the two main characters very well. One problem with this however is some of Chibi's lines seem left out. Two or three times in the dub you will see his mouth move, but nothing come out. Switch the Japanese track for a second and you clearly hear dialogue (and it's tranlsated in the subtitles). I wonder what happened here? Some overlook or mistake perhaps? It's nothing major, but it's just very jarring to hear a character answer him when he doesn't say anything in the dub, or him answer someone with silence. Rebi Ra is played by Bob Sessions, and he is the weakest actor of the dub by far. Some of his lines in the opening scene are outright terrible, and really bring down the quality of the dub. By the ending of the anime he's much better, but still not good enough as he should be. While the casting of him as the character works because he fits Rebi Ra, the person casting should have thought about weather or not he could act, because from this my answer is "not really...". It's a good thing he doesn't have many lines. Some of the smaller roles are sort of bad, although no one sounds outright like an amateur. Other smaller roles sound really good, like the children who appear for a small scene, or the old short lady who wants money from the two leads. The script is the real problem of this dub though. At times it's very clumpy, cluttered and rough. At you can really hear the actors tripping over their lines. It's not that the actors are bad, most of them are at least decent, but you can tell the script needed some work. Cursing is frequently used in the dub as well. While I'm never against some good cursing in an anime, and in this OVA the content really does call for it, I must question the times and placement of the curses. Many times a curse just feels oddly placed here or there, and other times it feels like they could have used a curse word but didn't. The dub is sort of odd, and very different sounding. But I find it has more positives then negatives, and I like a lot of things about it. I just wish the script was a little better, then it would be more then enough. As it is it's quite all right, but Bakewell has done better.
Central Park Media has released this many times on VHS and later DVD. I have the 2004 DVD release, which was inlcuded with the Kawajiri Brick Pack which actually is quite nice to look at. The DVD includes an insert, which is a nice little postcard thing, although I like the ones inlcuded in the Birdy the Mighty and A Wind Named Amnesia DVDs a little more. But it's still very cool. I think I like the 2005 release cover artwork a little better then my DVD, but both are nice. The DVD menu however is very ugly, and looks quite cheap. I've made better DVD menus messing around with Media Center on my computer. Besides looking ugly it's also quite slow to load. This is quite a shame becuase it is my opinion that CPM has some of the best DVD menus out there, looking through my collection they have some of my favorites. The extras included are just "meet the cast" type extras. These are there to remind you who these characters are, by showing a small clip from the OVA focusing on them. Cool little extra, but no real content.
So far this is the weakest Kawajiri anime I've seen. But weak Kawajiri, is still pretty good in my book. This is worth seeing a few times, but there are better titles in the genre.
- Review copied (and edited) from my personal blog
- Original Review posted here: http://predeanimereview.blogspot.com/2010/01/demon-city-shinjuku.html#comments
2 of 2 episodes seen
"Dragon Half" is a little OVA, that does a lot more then I ever thought it could. It's not the deepest most profound anime, and it's not the most exciting thing to watch either. But it's got some wild and crazy characters, and it's laugh out loud funny. Sure it's a little stupid, and a bit shallow. But it's a cute show, and hey I LOVE the dub.
Plot/Story - 7
This little OVA series takes place in your standard "sword and sorcery" fantasy realm, and although it's not original, it gives the series a bit of an edge. It's a great setting for a comedy in my opinion. Also it does have a bit of a twist, like for example some non-coventional stuff will apear from time to time. Anyway this anime is about Mink and her friends trying to get tickets to this concert. Yes they have concerts ther ein this fantaysy world, and the guy Mink wants to see is some famouse idol, who sings all around the land, and fihghts bad guys, and does everything else. He's quite the hot shot, and "big thing" going at this time. Mink's a huge fan. The King of this land has it out for her, however, and wants nothing more then for Mink to be dead! He wants to marry her mother, and will do whatever it takes. For some reason he thinks if he does away with Mink, it will make this much easier on him. Her mother is a dragon by the way, and she's still married to her father, a knight who slays dragons. Yeah a match made in heaven...or hell :P. Anyway the King and his men try to capture/kill Mink, Mink doesn't seem to notice much and wants to go to the convert, her friends join her, hijinks ensue. It's a very simple story, but one that works. Later Mink ends up in this huge tournament/fight against some of her enemies, and that's where you will really start laughing your but off! The story is interesting, and never boring, thats for sure. Crazy things keep happening, at yet the story still moves along. And the ending is also quite fun. The show is very light hearted, goofy, and stupid at times, yet never too dumb. It may not be a smart show, but the way it does everything makes you feel dumber then the show is. This is a plus in my book. Also when everything is over, you get to see Mink with her top off. Not sure if this is good or bad, but you do. As Matt Greenfield so blunty puts it (in his commentary track) "And there's the fanservice. The reword for watching it to the end ;) ". Boobies and humor. Yes this show has it all folks.
Usually when/if I review a comedy I'll try and describe the type of humor (slapstick, dialogue based, character based, parody, satire, puns, nonsensical, etc), but trying to pin down the type of humor in "Dragon Half", is like trying to pin down a tiger. It won't be easy, it's crazy, and you will probally fail trying. So I'll just say that "Dragon Half" is incredbly fast paced, and very very funny. To try and get you to understand what type of humor this is perhaps this will help. Greg Ayres once called it "Excel Saga...before we had Excel Saga". So yeah...think about that one. I think that works quite nicely. This show outright paradies many different fantasy tropes in anime. It makes fun of a lot of things, and it also makes fun of its self. It doesn't "reference" any shows in perticular (that I noticed), but it makes fun of common fantasy themes. It's also completly random, and makes no sense. Yeah there's a story, and it ends. But nothing you will watch will make any sense at all. This show is incredbly surreal. Laugh as things that make no sense happen in weird ways! I know I did! Much of the humor is slapstick, but not in an anoying way. There is some great wordplay once in awhile (and I must compliment ADV Films for the great script), and off the wall stuff happening constantly, and the dub really makes everything 10 times funnyer. You can tell ADV had fun dubbing this one. Anyway yeah the type of humor in this changes with the mood, although it tends to stay clearly on the "stupid" side of the humor equation. So yeah no real witty remarks, or intelligent satire. Just plain, dumb, (but FUNNY) jokes. And it's not even high brow stuff. It's not offensive, but this isn't "Jokes with Einstein" either. Oh and although all the characters are stupid, even they laugh at Damaramu for being an idiot. He's one of the "bad guys" out to get Mink for the King. And you should too, because he's pretty stupid, yet funny. He keeps saying his own name when he talks, not because it makes him sound tough. But because if he didn't he'd forget his own name. Yeah dumb as a herde of snails, running right into a pile of salt.
Art/Animation - 6
This is an OVA, and so I judged it as one. Despite being an OVA, it seemed to have gotten a rather poor budget. It has aged quite a bit by today's standards. Comedy seems to never get the big budgets, but boy did they save on this one. It's not bad or anything, but the animation is rather average. It does it's job, with all the crazy and random things happening, but it is nothing to write home about either. The art is nice looking, although rather plane and undetailed, even for 93. It has some cute character designs that I really liked. And the color palette is very nice, incredbly bright, full of like, and cheery. A little TOO colorful at times, but I liked it. The backgrounds are rather average and plane looking.
Also I must bring up the fact that the characters are constantly changing from super deformed (aka Chibi form) to regular anime form throughout the show. They do a good job at this, although they didn't blow me away either. It was a great choice however, and I admire the effert. It works with the crazy pace of the show, and the just so bizarre and outlandish nature of it all.
Sound (Music & Dub) - 9
The background themes, when played are quite good. Light hearted, poppy, and very cute. But where this series shines is in it's AMAZING ending theme. "Watashi no Tamagoyaki" is a crazy pop song verson/remix of a famouse Beethoven song. Yeah they don't mess around here. On top of that you have the meaningless, nonsenical lyrics such as " Pappara funi-Funi Papparu hoe-hoe" song with such effert, feeling, and enthusiasm that you can't help but love it. It's so in your face, it's so cute, it's so fluffy, yet it all sounds very nice. This si the type of song you will get stuck in your head, and never be able to sleep. Yet you won't care because the song is so catchy.
Dragon Half was dubbed in 2002 by ADV Films, in their Houston studio (Amusement Park Media, although its been known as a lot of things over the years. They keep changing the damn name I have no idea what they called this studio back in 2002. Anyway I rank it as one of, if not THE top ADR studio in North America). This is an anime ADV released sub-only YEARS before hand, and was known in some circles as "un-dubble" just because of how fast paced it was, and how much is going on. According to the commentary track, this was dubbed around Christmas, so they could have the largest talent pool possible (many actors who moved away come back for the Holidays). Also they seemed to have wanted Jessica Calvello to play the lead, and by this time she had already moved to New York City. Greenfeild (the ADR Director) said they could have dubbed this whenever, but he waited until it could have a great dub, as best as they could do. And I must say I am truly glad they waited to dub this. As this is one of the funniest dubs out there. First the casting of Jessica Calvello as Mink...dead on! I love her in this role. She's perfect in every way. Not that Mink is a very difficult charcter to "get", but I really can't picture anyone else playing her. Also Amanda Winn Lee as Vina, the main bad girl and the King's Daughter, was another brilliant casting. She is truly funny in this. Like I fell off my stea with some of the stuff she says. Hilary Haag as Pia, one of Mink's friend, was another great choice. She fits these "little, tiny and silly" characters quite well.
As far as the performances go, Not sure what I can say really. This isn't a Shakespeare play, it's a lowbrow comedy, off the wall anime, with lots and lots of crazy dialogue. But as far as comedies go, I dare you to find a better acted one out there. This show's dub is just great, truly top grade! I just love how insane everyone is. The main cast, the small roles, the one line guys, everyone does a great, no wonderful job. And as I already said, Jessica Calvello is amazing in this. You can tell she had a lot of fun with it. No one out there could do what she did with this one here. Also shout out to Tiffany Grant, who plays a small, but important character from the second episode. She gives Dug Fin, this small magical critter, such a cute, yet mean spirited voice, that you just gata love it. Everything she says will have you rollying on the floor laughing. Aaron Krohn as the idol Mink wants to see, Dick Saucer, is so OVER THE TOP, you will smile. You will just totally get this guy, every bit of him. He did a great job as Kaji in Eva, and you can tell this was no fluke. He's a real fit for these types of characters in my opinion. In fact you can tell a lot of thought went into the casting of this show. And Greenfield's mark is all over this one. I expect the best from him, and I got nothing less then that. One of the best ADR directors in the biz.
Enjoyment - 9
This is very subjective, as if this humor style doesn't work with you, you probally won't like this show very much. But I can't help but to love it. I laughed, I laughed,I kept laughing, I laughed some more. It's really a fun, enjoyable, and cute little OVA. I'm glad it didn't overstay it's welcome, as two episodes is more then enough. Anymore and the jokes would get stale, it wouldn't be able to keep up with it's fast paced nature, and the characters could get anoying. But as this is it's perfect. In fact all of the characters are likeable and cool, even the truly stupid ones. That takes some good writing, because sadly many times the truly DUMB characters get anoying fast. Not so here. Now the show is kind of hallow, shallow, and devoid of anything more then joke after joke really. But I feel the crazy characters get me though that. They're not really deep, or very well developed, but their likeable, and you enjoy watching them.
Commentaries can sometimes be the most boring thing ever, or the best extra feature on the DVD. Luckily for us, the latter is true for this one. Matt Greenfeild the ADR director, and one of the head honchos at then-ADV Films (now Section 23) is main voice you will be hearing. And he actually talks in debth about the this very shallow show, and explaisn the dubbing process. His wife, and voice actor Tiffany Grant (who has an important role in this) joins him. And he tried to talk matter-of-factly about the show, but he really can't because it's so funny. Ok maybe because I'm a nerd, and fan of Greenfeild, or perhaps because this commentary track is truly funny, either way I found I really enjoyed this.One of the better commentaries out there by far. Not only is it interesting and informative, but it's also very funny. It's like if your up for more laughs after watching the show, put this on to kill another hour. Now it's not as good as his commentary on "Puni Puni Poemy" but it's still very good. (In the commentary for "Puni Puni Poemy" he tries to talk about the show, but CAN'T because the entire cast is there with him, and everyone is constantly saying something laugh out loud funny. This constant struggle between Greenfeild trying to talk in debth about another very shallow show, and everyone just goofing on the show is really an undrescrible listen. It's one of my favorites! Very enjoyable. In fact funny/more interesting then the show its self, at least for that OVA). So in short, give the commentary a listen if your a dub fan. It's one of the better ones out there.
This is a very shallow, and stupid show. But it's also very very funny. It's humor is hard to pin down, and you never know what it's ganna do next. The fantasy setting is a plus, and the characters while, 2 dimensional, are very likeable (even the bad guys and stupid dudes). The dub is one of the best for a comedy, and you will be on the floor with this one. The show may be a little too crazy and fast paced for some, but it's weird nature is something I couldn't help but love. Also Beethoven ending theme for the win! And boobies. First they try and hide them, but then they show all. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but it's boobies.
Yeah...watch this crazy show. It's well worth the price of the DVD.
12 of 12 episodes seen
The anime series is based off of a PC game by the same name, created by TomBoy. The anime series was produced by AIC, and ran on TV from July to September in 1998. Shido is a vampire, and a private detective living in Japan. He's devoted himself to saving humans, not killing them or turning them to vampires, as the other vampires do. He rocks cool pink hair, and an interesting style of clothing, and hunts "nightbreeds". Nightbreeds are the name for lesser demons in the series, who need to feed on, or control human beings in order to survive. One of Shido's "powers" as a vampire, is he is able to turn his blood into a weapon that can kill or harm nightbreeds. Yayoi is a member of a secret organization designed to investigate cases involving nightbreeds, hunt them down, and destroy them and she often works with Shido to do this. Since he is a vampire, he is very powerful, and can use his many skills to accomplish their goals, and solve the many cases. And Riho Yamazaki is the high school girl who just so happens to work part time as a secretary at Shido's detective agency. At first Riho is blissfully unaware of the dark secrets that are hiding just beneath the surface at this particular detective agency. You see in their world, humans are unaware that vampires and demons exist for the most part. And the reason she ended up working for Shido has to do with him investigating her parents mysterious deaths. Riho starts to develop a bit of crush on Shido, and wishes to help him with his many cases. And although Shido does not want her to get involved in the nightbreed cases, she eventually does many times, and predictably enough she does learns the dark secrets of Shido in due time. And circumstances develop in which a powerful enemy fatally wounds Riho and she must be turned into a vampire, or left to die (I won't spoil how this happens). Of course she chooses the former. The rest of the series follows those three attempting to solve the many crimes involving nightbreeds within the city. Now there's a crap load of demons here for them to find, so we're ganna have to just assume their city has a gateway to hell in it or something, but whatever. I'll buy it. During each case these three (and of course their gremlin little mascot, Guni) must figure out who exactly is the nightbreed (nightbreeds can take control of human beings), or where the nightbreed is, or even if a nightbreed truly is the cause of the problems in the first place (nightbreeds are also sometimes just called "breeds" for short by the way). And this is where the mystery element comes in, as we don't know who or what is the nightbreed, and are guessing along with our friends here. Sure some episodes are not set up like this, and are instead pretty straight forward, in that there is a nightbreed, they know where it is, and must fight or chase after it. And these episodes are very good as well. There is also an overall story that develops involving Cain, the vampire who turned Shido into a vampire in the first place, and is the only one who knows Shido's true past. And Cain becomes the main "bad guy" of the series so to speak. He doesn't care about human beings, and kills many people to satisfy his thirst. Shido and Riho on the other hand drink blood donated by Yayoi, so no one has to die for their survival. And also the series deals with Riho struggling to come to terms with the recent loss of her humanity, her new thirst for blood and dislike for the sun, and the fact that she will outlive all of her friends, classmates at school, and everyone else she knows.
Ok I'll admit there's a lot going on in this series. It even manages to touch on Shido and Riho's relationship (being more then friends, and maybe lovers?) a bit. It's difficult to explain all the different aspects of the show very well. But the series handles each part with expertise, and it's not nearly as complex as it sounds. Each and every episode is different enough as to not get repetitive, and main plot does move along at a great pace. The idea of Shido having to deal with his past with Cain (as his homosexual lover I may add), and also trying to cope with not knowing who he was before he was bitten is quite interesting. And this takes a toll on him, and you can notice this. It's also another stroke of genius to have the only person who has any idea who he was before he became a vampire be Cain himself. The transition of Riho from human to vampire, and her dealing with this is handled very well. It's not angsty or anything, because her one wish is to live forever with Shido, and it seems she can now do that, but it's not exactly "yeah I'm a vampire!! I'm so happy!!" either, and this middle of the road feeling makes a lot of sense. On the one hand she didn't really want to die, and she does want to live with Shido for all time. At yet she doesn't really want to be a vampire, and she misses being able to do many human things. This struggle with her loss of humanity and being a vampire is handled very well and is never forgetten about. She is of course aided by Shido, who tries to help her and guide her when he can. This of course parallels Shido's former relationship with Cain, only he felt humans were nothing but cattle to be used for vampires, while Shido thinks vampires should help humans. Cain made Shido a vampire, and was his mentor, and now Shido has made Riho a vampire, and became her mentor. This is a very interesting way for AIC to handle the series, and I really liked this aspect of the show. And character development for all the major characters, even the little mascot goblin guy, is really well done. They flesh out each and every one of the major characters, and somehow find the time to reveal each of their back stories, and show who Cain really is, all while hunting down nightbreeds or solving cases involving nightbreeds. Kinda amazing they fit all that in there. And many of the mysteries have great twists you won't see coming.
(***small spoiler*** ) Hell they manage to reveal the entire back story of one character, and part of another WITHOUT you even noticing this until the very end the episode!! That was a great twist! (***end spoilers***)
Even some of the minor characters who manage to stick around a little get some development, which I really liked. However the series probably did try and do a little too much. As some of the "nightbreeds of the week" have very little screen time, so they do seem a little generic. Few of them are really fleshed out. But this is a small problem. A bigger problem is that by the end of the series, the main plot is not really tied up. The series doesn't end with a cliffhanger or anything, but it feels like there's more to tell. It's not bad, but not very satisfying if you want real the main plot to actually come to an end. However I am not bothered much by this, mostly because the last episode is incredibly dramatic, suspenseful, and just very powerful. I know a few people will be bothered by what they do here, but I really loved the way the last episode was handled. Sure they never get to finishing up the main plot, but I'll be alright with that if that means we get an amazing episode like this. And it is a good episode to end the show on. Oh and I probably should mention the first four episode are very odd. Anime News Network notes that the series started as a 4 episode OVA, and then continued as a TV series were the OVA left off. I'm also willing to bet there was a big change in staff between these episodes as well. As the overall tone, style, and content of the show changes significantly (and for the better I may add). While, sadly, the TV series toned down the blood, gore, and violence, the writing really moved up a few notches. The first 4 episodes were very uneven in terms of writing. One would be all right, the next would be kinda bad, and then another episode pretty good. And then we also have the completely uncalled for nudity in one of the episodes. Look I'm not against nudity or anything, but in a series like this, and the way it's done, well it kind felt unneeded and stupid. Also I really liked the change in character design between the first 4 episodes and the rest. Perhaps it's because I started the series at episode 7, so that is what I was used to, but I really like the different character designs much more.
As far as production values go, this is about average for 1998. The animation is pretty good. The artwork is detailed, although very reminiscent of early 90's or even 80's anime. I'm pretty sure this was intentional, as it really goes with the music style which I'll get to in a bit. I really like the style though, and the second character designs are really nice looking. The original character designs manage to make Riho really ugly looking, and I don't like Yayoi's hair at all. But when it was an OVA it seemed to have the budget to really pay attention to what all the minor characters looked like, and so all of the earlier minor characters look a bit better. So it evens its self out I guess, although I'd rather my main characters look good and not worry much about the minor cast. As for the music, it's exceptional. They went with a great jazz inspired background theme, and it really works. If you closed your eyes you'd think you were watching some old crime drama from the 1970's or 1980's, and it's very fitting. The opening theme is distinctive, and the ending theme is very good too. But I really love the background themes! Some themes don't sound like that however, and instead sound like they are straight out of a 80's horror flick. So with the 80's inspired music, I think it's fitting why the art style looks a little 80's inspired. And it's not bad artwork either.
The dub for this was produced at Bang Zoom, in late 1999 and early 2000. And it is a pretty good dub. While not amazing, and it does show it's age a bit, I really found myself enjoying it. The star of the dub is easily Richard Cansino, who plays Shido quite well. He gives that character a distinct feeling, and really understands where he is going with the dub. I should probably also mention that at times Shido narrates the story, filling us in on a few things here and there. And Cansino's narration gives the anime a film noir feeling that's definitely called for and adds to the overall atmosphere. Yayoi is played by Jane Alan. At times Alan does not seem like she's giving it her all; it's a little disappointing. She just didn't seem enthusiastic enough at certain times, and at others like she wasn't sure what she should be doing or how she should be saying it. Luckily for most of the anime she's not like this, and does a wonderful job. She fit her character very well. I probably shouldn't be so harsh on her. Riho is played by Dorothy Elias-Fahn who does a really good job. She gives her character just enough spunk, youthfulness, and playfulness to fit Riho. And she knows when to tone down the happy-go-lucky side of herself when needed. Also I MUST apploud her for her work in the final episode (don't worry no spoilers). As I already alluded to it's quite a dramatic episode, and I thought she handled it perfectly. She did a truly great job. Now why couldn't she be this good in Vampire Princess Miyu?? Cain is played by Lex Lang, and he's not bad. But I really thought he could have been better. Sandy Fox plays Guni, and I'm assuming they pitched her voice up a bit here. I thought the way they made her sound fit Guni well, and that she was quite good as well. I liked how the main cast here was filled with lesser known actors, and on the whole I liked how different this dub sounded then many other LA dubs of the time. Many of the episidic characters are voiced by better known actors however, like Michelle Ruff, Mona Marshall, and Wendee Lee. And they of course do a good. job. But again many of the other minor characters are played by lesser-known actors, and they too go a good job. So in short, this is a dub worth checking out. Although it's not really too impressive or anything. It is however a rare LA dub from CPM, since they usually stuck to New York City, so I do find that interesting.
This anime is very well done. It has a great fleshed out main cast, an interesting story, and decent dub. The production values are good, and it's an interesting mix of genres. If you plan on buying this on DVD, watch out for the dub-only release Central Park Media released (if you don't want that version that is). I own the 2 volume release from 2004, and it has both an English and Japanese track, along with one extra. The extra feature is a comparison of the storyboard to the finished product and it's on both DVDs. This was a nice little extra, that they really didn't need to add on. However I do wish there was something more, like a behind the scenes look at the dub, or a commentary or something. But hey I'll take whatever extra they throw at me. The small problems with the show, make me subtract a half a star from my rating, but I still highly recommend this title. It's an under watched gem that could really catch on in my opinion. read more
12 of 12 episodes seen
School Days starts innocently enough, with Makoto Ito interesting in a girl who takes the same train to school every mourning that he does, Kotonoha Katsura. Makoto is a regular high school freshman, to shy to approach the girl he likes, and content enough just secretly admiring her. But when he hears the urban legend that if you take a picture of the girl you like, use it as the wallpaper of your cell phone, and no one notices for three weeks you will be able to go out with that person. He figures he has nothing to lose, so sneaks a picture of the girl and uses it as his wallpaper. But when a female classmate, Sekai Saionji who sits next to him, notices his phone's wallpaper, she realizes he has a crush on Kotonoha, so she plans to become their "matchmaker" and get the two together. Surpringly enough Kotonoha had also has noticed Makoto and developed a bit of a crush on him. So Sekai succeeds in getting the two lovebirds together. But later, when Makoto asks Sekai what he can do to thank her, she steals a kiss from him and says that's payment enough. It seems Sekai may have developed a bit of a crush on Makoto as well. It makes sense since the two were hanging out a lot lately. The real problem here, is perhaps Makoto also has feelings for her. The three become friends, and in due time a love triangle develops. The series involves lots of kissing, making out, and eventually lots of people having lots of sex. In fact I can't remember the last show that displayed this much sex, especially considering the age of these characters (what are they all 15?). Although none of the sex is graphically displayed, this does help give the show a bit of an edge. Top that off with themes of betrayal, revenge, loss of innocence, using others, ignoring others feelings, the meaning of friendship, and love vs lust, and you can see this isn't exactly a show for the kiddies. Actually it's quite a mature show that's much deeper then you would think. Besides brining up the issues of teenage sexuality (and everything that goes along with it), the show shows us exactly what happens when you ignore others feelings, play with people, and use people. It shows us what effects our actions have on others, and what that causes others to eventually do. And it does all this without once letting us hear the inner thoughts of any of these characters.
This series is a depiction of what would really happen if the type of romance often shown in harem anime series were to be brought to the real world. This is the real life verson of a harem, because you can sure bet if a harem were real it would not be all sunshines and rainbows, probally something more like this. In real life the girls would not be happy about their man being interested in another women. And the guy could not be shown in good light, if he's basically cheating on his girlfriend back and forth. He could not be a good person, if he's in a relationship like this. And the series is not afraid to show that. As the story goes on many other girls get involved, and many are practiclly throwing themselves at Makoto. This leaves me wondering where these girls were when I was in high school. And as contrived as it is, it does work. And you will have to be a little forgiving, as this series is attempting to dissect the harem genre. The anime is also a deconstruction piece, attempting to brake down the romance/slice of life/h-game adaptation genres. This is quite a goal, and on the large it does succeed. There are some small contrivances of course that will have to be over looked (a "rest room/lounge" for couples to mess around in during the school festival is pushing it a little), but over all it does not come off as too unrealistic and it is successful on turning the harem genre on it's head, inside out, and corrupting it to hell. This is quite a feat.
As for the characters of this anime, I can imagine there will be many out there who won't be able to stomach them. And for good reason, most of the cast is either annoying, terrible people, or a combination of the two. So why watch it? Well for one the story is really good. It's well written and decently paced, and has more then enough twists for most viewers. It's a really addictive show from start to finish. It's something new that you probably haven't seen before, and fans of the genre of drama will eat this up. It offers a great twist on stories we've all seen, and it's cynical nature is more then fascinating. But this series is truly for those who can appreciate realistic characters. And I for one loved the way this series handled it's characters. None of them are heroes, or unrealistic teenagers always happy go lucky, or something. Instead they are life like characters, many who may hit far to close to home to some. They are all very flawed, and have real life problems, goals, anxieties, feelings, self-doubts, and fears. And a lot of them make some really terrible mistakes. If you don't like watching people make a lot of mistakes the show might not be for you. And over the course of the show a few of the characters will do what seem like truly despicable and stupid things. However we must not judge them too harshly. For they do not have the birds eye view of events that we do. They are caught up in the moment, and unable to see what those around them are thinking and feeling. And the most important reason we should not be to tough on them, is because their mistakes are our mistakes. Sure it's easy to point out when these characters are being jerks, or selfish or stupid when your watching the show. But will you be able to tell when your doing similar things? While many will become aggravated by many of the characters, and truly learn to despise them, by the end of all this I mostly feel sorry for all of them. I'm sure the part of the intent of the series was to make you dislike some characters, and get bothered by them, and it does seem to succede. But when all is said and done, I can't help but feel sorry for everyone involved, even the characters many seem to really hate. Sure I am bothered by them, but in the end they were all truly human. They all have some redeeming qualities, and none are truly monsters. However the same goes for the other side of the equation. Very few if any of the characters are truly innocent, or entirely good people. And that's very interesting. This series is brilliant in it's abilities to evoke such emotions as hate, anger, and disgust. And it will really surprise you at times. Rather then being apathetic about these characters, we care. At least we care one way, or the other. We may not love them, but we have a feeling about them. And that is very important for me while watching a series. If I have no feeling toward any of the characters then I ask what is the point in the end?
The anime is very well written, and uses drama and suspense perfectly. The story starts off like any other light hearted romance, but by the end your left just staring at the screen, freaked out by what you have just witnessed. By the end you will be asking the same question Sekai poses in one of the last scenes, "Why?! How did this happen?". How indeed. Because looking back at the first few episodes, it's impossible to see this type of conclusion. Even with the noise about the ending, even with the signs it's taking a dark turn, one could not foresee this ending. And what an ending it is. Perfect in every way. The last few episodes are thrilling, and involve a few twists you will not see coming. And while the ending is very sad, and very screwed up on all levels, it is more then satisfying, and that's good enough for me. This series will have you hooked from the more lighthearted and more innocent beginnings, to the bone chilling conclusion. The series also has some of the best use of comedy relief I've seen in an anime in a long time. Many anime series seem to get this wrong, at least for my tastes anyway. But School Days knows when to have the class president hit a character in the head while sliding down a water slide, or have a funny "class fight" during the school festival that will have you cracking up. While largely a dark drama, the slight use of comedy relief at the right times really helps prevent the series from becoming too bleak.
On the technical side of things we have a mixed bag. On one hand the animation is not up to par with current anime TV series. While not outright terrible, it is mediocre at best. The series uses a lot of stills, pannings, and shortcuts in order to tell it's story. While not exactly distracting, it won't be winning any awards either. Some scenes do not at all flow well, and others have characters all moving at the same time in the same way, giving off a very robot like feeling. This easiest to see when a character enters a room, and all the others turn and face them. They all turn at the same time, and it's all very stiff. There are times when the animation is good, especially in the beginning and the episodes toward the ending. But seeing how this series is mostly talking, walking, making out, and having sex (lots of sex), I think they could have done much better. As far as the art goes however, I thought it was great. The character designs are what drew me to the series in the first place. they have this "rounded" feeling to them, that really makes them look a little different then your regular characters, but not too different as to take away from the main point of dissecting common anime genres. One small problem was how a few of the characters looked a little too much like each other, and in the begining it was a little hard to tell who was who. But after an episode or two I quickly got used to it. The color palette used is another strong point of the series. Lots of blues, pales, greys, and blacks are used, and it all looks quite nice. The series has this distinct look about it that I just love. The backgrounds are all good, but nothing to write home about. Although I did really enjoyed the many of the characters' rooms, the location right outside Makoto's house, and of course the "nice boat" scenery. The music however is in a word, perfect. I wouldn't change a damn thing about it. The opening theme may be a little too happy for some, but just like the opening theme to Shadow Star Narutaru , another deconstruction piece, it works to it's advantage. The multiple ending themes are all really great songs, although if I must pick a favorite it would be the endings of episodes three and eleven which use the song "Waltz", by Kanako Ito. This series also has a handful of excellent insert songs, all which add the mood perfectly. The right song is used to enhance this scene or that one, and some of them really help to add to the drama, or the suspense (towards the end of the series). Perhaps the best insert song is "To the Other Side of Sadness" by Kanako Ito, which I just can't stop listening to. It's used during one of the most important scenes in the series, and it really makes that scene. I have not heard any other series were Kaoru Okubo was in charge of the music, but I sure hope to in the future. Okubo really impressed me with the soundtrack in this, from great background themes, to amazing insert songs, and great openings and endings, nothing is off. I must have more!
There will be many out there who hate this series. And that is perfectly all right. This is not a show for everyone. They will find it's soup-opera-ish plot ridiculous and it's characters despicable, and will be bothered greatly by this show. But for those who can enjoy a good drama, one were the characters are realistic and flawed, this is the show for them. If you can deal with characters that you may dislike or even grow to hate, this is the show for you. Because the plot is so well written, and the show is so good, I think most will enjoy this. I normally would not review a series not licensed, since I usually only watch DVD's anyway. But once in awhile I check out a legal streaming show or two, and this was one of them. I watched the shows entire 12 episodes in two sittings, something I've never done before. I usually take weeks to watch even the shortest of series, so that speaks volumes for how much I enjoyed this series. I am not big on watching a show subtitled, but this show managed to entertain me the entire time. It impressed me so much I just had to review it. So if you think it may make such an impression on you, be sure to check it out. It's currently streaming on Crunchyroll, legally and for free. Now let's hope this great show gets licensed so I can watch it on my big screen TV with a great dub.
- Review copyed from my personal blog
- Original review posted at: http://predeanimereview.blogspot.com/2009/11/school-days.html