26 of 26 episodes seen
I’ve always liked the story of David and Goliath, from which the term Giant Killing derives its name. Really, it’s a concept we want to believe in. We want to see the underdog, with every disadvantage, somehow come out on top against his opponent. This is what originally drew me toward the series. Tatsumi, arguably the main character of the series, used to be East Tokyo United’s star player. However, he quit and went overseas, having a successful stint coaching an amateur team to compete on a professional level. He comes back to ETU a shadow of its former self. It has struggled with relegation for years, essentially running on life support. His job? Save the club.
You already know this can’t be easy, but the problem is far more delicate. Everyone has their own opinion of ETU and its current place in the Japanese leagues. The veteran players believe ETU needs to bide its time in the defensive position they’ve developed over the past few years. The fans view Tatsumi with outright scorn, seeing him as a traitor for leaving the team in the first place. Other teams look down on them as little more than a joke. Then there’s the new blood, who really don’t know what to do. Put on top of this Tatsumi’s penchant for flippancy in his manners and speech and you have a powder keg just waiting for a spark.
Keeping that in mind, Giant Killing does have an overarching plot of taking a ragtag team and overcoming impossible odds. However, it serves as more of a goal for the series. The real plot is developing the team, both as players and characters. Naturally, all of them need to improve their skills on the field, especially the new additions. However, they all have personal issues. Tsubaki has a lack of self-confidence, Sera struggles with an inferiority complex, Kuro gets easily discouraged by failure, and so on. As the series progresses, they all get a spot in the limelight to overcome their shortcomings. It all threads together in a climactic match against a “giant” which spans the last third of the series. This gives us a character driven series, as opposed to story driven.
The series could simply develop ETU and call it a day, but it strives to build up the supporting cast as well. In fact, some of the most memorable characters are only around for a single game of the series. The Brazillian Trio from Nagoya has great chemistry and is largely entertaining both before and during the game. The finale’s opposing team also has a lot of effort put into defining their players strengths and weaknesses throughout the arc. Even the Ramen Guy, who is on screen for all of two minutes, has a surprising amount of character built put into him. It does have some low points though, specifically the reporters. I also wish the older fans had received more thorough and satisfying development.
The vocal work really backs up the characters in this series. Nobody feels like they’re out of their element. Seki Tomokazu plays an excellently flippant Tatsumi. Tyotaro Okiayu nails the gruff and experienced center of the team, Murakoshi. Perhaps my favorite actor, though, is Daisuke Ono voicing superstar Gino. Even when he compliments someone, he maintains that condescending tone which says “Why yes, I am better than you.” I could continue to praise it, but you get the idea. Really the weak point of the voice acting comes up whenever a character tries to speak in English. It’s a bit more authentic from the multicultural perspective of the game, but it comes off as forced in execution.
Where the characters and vocal work excel, the art and animation is a mixed bag. The anime stays true to its source material, which is good for fans of the manga. On the other hand, the somewhat minimalistic art style might turn off some viewers. It struggles with perspective at times. For example, the scene where Tatsumi and Dulfer shook hands looked ridiculous. I also recall come complaints for using CG animation to handle the crowds and some of the game play on occasion. However, both the CG and drawn animation look fluid, so I have no complaints. On the positive side, the series has some very powerful still frame shots to punctuate moments of the series. They’re very stylized and for the most part, look beautiful.
Here’s the bottom line. If you like soccer, then why have you not watched this yet? If you like sports or sports anime in general, you can’t really go wrong with this series. Even if you have little interest in sports, if you like strong characters, you should definitely give it a shot. Giant Killing does have a few weak points in every facet, like a somewhat formulaic approach to Tatsumi’s strategies, a few weak characters, wonky English, and some poorly executed graphics. However, as a whole, the series shines beyond its difficulties, and remains a very entertaining ride from start to finish. I definitely recommend it.
Final Score: 8/10 read more
16 of 16 chapters read
Metroid historically relies on the environment to tell a story, so while this two-volume series is light on progression, it is good for adding personality to the already established characters. Samus starts as a traumatized girl whom the Chozo protect. Over time, she fights out of an obligation she feels to defend the galaxy. Of course, “obligation” only gets you so far, and when forced to stare down her past, she breaks down completely. After the experience, she becomes a free-spirited bounty hunter who can fight for causes in which she truly believes. The Chozo, who only show up in the games through their remaining technology, strive for peace in the galaxy. Despite high hopes for their special projects, they fell woefully short and, in the end, set into motion all the events in the Metroid canon.
On the antagonistic side, the series reveals that the space pirates respond only to the strong, in a sort of hive-mind mentality. Ridley, Samus’ nemesis and the leader of the space pirates, is portrayed as constantly sadistic. He enjoys killing people, and even eats the corpses of his victims to regain his strength. Mother Brain, however, starts the manga as a docile biological computer for the Chozo. As time goes on, she develops a sense of fear, that the Chozo will leave her behind as they focus their efforts on Samus. This eventually evolves into an egocentric god-complex that causes her to rebel against the galaxy.
From an artistic standpoint, the manga is simply sufficient. Most of the problem rests on Samus, who has a disproportionate feel. That’s a problem when she’s the main character. I realize this manga occurs before the sexualization of Samus, but her body just looks too stocky for an acrobatic and agile bounty hunter. It might just be me, but it seems like the artist made her head too big in some places and too small in others. It has a weird rubber-band effect that steals your attention. The space pirates lack detail, and Ridley looks kind of like a convoluted caricature of a demonic dragon. The backgrounds also suffer from this same unpolished feel. For a series that prizes detail in the environment, this is an unfortunate letdown. On the other hand, I really liked the design of the Chozo. Their avian features are a bit exaggerated, but they still look distinguished in their simple, formal robes. The Metroids also have their traditionally interesting character design, and seeing Mother Brain’s slow but steady design progression is a nice addition. In addition, the sci-fi space setting lends itself to many battle sequences, with the focus on firearms and explosions. I found these enjoyable.
Your enjoyment of the Metroid manga will largely depend on how much interest you have in the accompanying franchise. If you have never played the games but have thought about trying them, these volumes are the obvious starting point. If you love the franchise already, then the story will shed some light on the characters and their backgrounds that will enhance your playing experience. However, if you fall into the third group that has no real interest in the games, much of this will be lost on you. The Metroid manga’s prominent weakness is its inability to stand alone as a single work. You might enjoy the battle sequences, or the progression Samus makes, but there just isn’t enough here for a real recommendation. I see it as a lost opportunity from Nintendo to explore the story in a different perspective.
Final Score: 6.5/10 read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
The cast of characters can really help a series like this, and the main characters do not disappoint. Aoki is the main character and plays the role of the everyman and the newbie in the show. He knows how to read lips, which is an invaluable skill since the memories have no sound. His thoughts and actions will likely mirror yours as you progress through the series, and he easily grows the most out of the cast. Maki sits on the opposite side of the spectrum as the jaded boss of Section 9. He has dealt with a lot in the past few years and drives his team to perform at the best of their abilities. His specialty is a photographic memory and extreme attention to detail. He also has an uncanny ability to appear exactly when needed. The pairs’ abilities drive most case breakthroughs, fitting their role as core protagonists. In addition, their interpersonal drama allows us to see the series from both extremes.
The rest of the characters, are more of a mixed bag. Each character's personality is decent, and all of them have at least one episode devoted to them. Unfortunately, none of them fully develops. Amaichi plays the heroine in this mystery drama and has the most development of the supporting cast. She has a minor sixth sense that occasionally comes into play. She also has a sizable crush on Aoki, though he’s too busy with his work to notice much. Okabe is a married and experienced agent who has dealt with his fair share of difficulties and has a more experienced perspective. Soga, to contrast, is a recent academy graduate who still has much to learn and needs to get his impulses under control. Michiru and Onogida are the two technicians that program and maintain the machinery, and naturally, there’s a lot of interplay between them. They round out the core cast.
While much of Himitsu is episodic in nature, an overarching plot does exist. The main story focuses on a criminal named Kainuma. His case sent ripples through the division and deeply affected Maki and his outlook on life. Even after his death, he still manages to cause tremendous grief for Section 9. On top of that, the source of his influence may not be what it first appears. Toward the end of the series, this prompts a number of plot twists, some of which are genuinely surprising and moving. Unfortunately, it feels like the directors pushed far too much into the last episodes. It culminates in an ending largely based on convenience to tie the plot line together as quickly as possible. While this weakens the series, it still doesn’t drive it into the ground.
Himitsu really shines in the moral drama that plays alongside the story. Much of this deals with privacy. After all, Section 9 views the memories of the victims, and some of these may be embarrassing or potentially incriminating for others. The characters also have to come to grips with viewing the memories of those close to them. The mind of someone you may interact with every day is far different from the mind of a complete stranger. Finally, there’s the ever-present allure of using information gleamed from the videos to benefit oneself. Beyond the obvious implications lie other problems. The series probes religion, body modification, and other societal issues. It does occasionally falter in this area, but overall the morality play is interesting and engaging.
The character designs are mature to match the subject material. However, they also have a derivative feeling to them. For the longest time I couldn’t tell the two supporting males apart. Additionally, while I don’t expect the artists to put a lot of effort into the victims and other one-time characters, perhaps a little more imagination would have helped. On the other hand, the background elements get their due attention, befitting a mystery series. Much more effort goes into detail here than in the characters. A variety of settings helps keep the artwork fresh and make sure the viewer doesn’t burn out on the urban core of the series. However, it often feels like the setting is literally too dark, which might put a bit of strain on your eyes.
Himitsu’s vocal work is competent, and none of the characters are unduly grating. The voices fit the characters well, though at times it does feel like the actors needed to put more feeling into the performance. While the designs may have been uninspired, we do get a lot of variety in the voice work for the one-shots. The opening and closing themes are relevant to the series' premise and devoid of any unnecessary Jpop influences. The background music does a tremendous amount to help the mood of the series. In particular, the composer manages to drive the chilling feeling home when it’s required.
Despite its faults, Himitsu is a solid series with many high points and some unique devices going for it. It's probably the series from Spring 2008 that everyone missed. If you enjoy a good mystery or moral drama, take the time out and give it a shot.
Final Score: 8/10 MRIs read more
12 of 12 episodes seen
Most of this series rests on the comedy aspect. Parodies of various anime series and aspects of Japanese culture abound, and if you’ve been watching anime for the past few years, you should be able to keep up. The one that really sticks out in my mind is a very long salute to the Sentai genre where they all try to figure out what color ranger they would be and what kind of plot their supposed series would have. They also poke fun at genre archetypes. In one episode, they all attempt to write a novel of their lives in the student council, which all vary wildly based on their interests. There’s also a two-minute segment where the cast manages to make a joke about almost every drama archetype in existence. Since tropes are my thing, I really enjoyed how the writers played with them. The writers make sure nothing is safe here, and stretch out enough that everyone will have something to laugh at.
The series is not entirely episodic though, there is a bit of a plot involved, but it’s quite nonstandard. You see, all the character development that would usually take place in an anime series has already happened. You get the characters as they exist in the present. The story aspects, which usually take place in the first and last few minutes of each episode, trace back the characters and their pasts. Every girl gets a small piece of the story, and all four have suffered some kind of trauma. Sugisaki serves as the focal point that connects all the girls together. Once you finally get to the end of the series, the individual threads converge on him as they play what would have been the opening seconds of the series as the ending. What we would laugh off at the start is actually kind of a touching moment at the end. This is no deep plot, but it’s enough to nicely tie the series together as one collective work.
From an animation standpoint, the series is executed very well. I honestly have to say that I have never seen a locker portray so much emotion before, just wait for episode 5 to understand that. Given that the vast majority of the series takes place in one little room, the artists put a lot of detail into the design, but that doesn’t leave the few scene changes in the lurch. Also, since this is a parody series, there’s a lot of call for style shifts and costume changes, in addition to the change in uniform as the seasons pass. The voice acting is one of the areas where this series shines the most. All four women in the student council have rookie seiyus, and they nail their roles to the wall. Takahashi Kondo voices Sugisaki, and he really conveys the pervert quality to his speech and tone. The OP is your standard Jpop fare, while the ED is somewhat nonstandard. A lot of series like this have different EDs for each episode, and while Ichizon does that, it always uses the same tune, just different lyrics or inflection. Unfortunately, one or two of the rookie team can’t quite stand up to the task.
All things considered, Seitokai no Ichizon is a fairly standard series. The series doesn't manage to break any new ground within its genres, but it does everything well enough that I feel it warrants a look. It also manages to do it in such a way that it doesn’t grate on people who traditionally avoid its core genre, such as myself. It might be worth a look for you. read more
Sep 20, 2009Paniponi Dash!: Danjite Okonaeba Kishin mo Kore wo... (Anime) add
1 of 1 episodes seen
At its core though, PPD is a parody anime, so it’s never going to take itself too seriously. And if you haven’t been keeping up with anime much in the last few years, you’re going to be left a bit in the dust. You’ll see references to Strike Witches, Gurren Lagann, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, and even video site Nico Nico Douga. The episode stands alone well enough, but if you’re paying attention, you’ll get a bit more value out of your time. The level of fanservice has also jumped a bit, so if you like that sort of thing, have at it.
The animation of the original work was pretty good already, but the OVA still makes everything look a little bit prettier. As a parody, the art style occasionally shifts, both for scenes and for simple background objects, and all of that is handled nicely as well. The OP and ED used are from the anime, so there’s nothing much new there. The background music is pretty subdued, and this series really relies on sound effects rather than music for scenes. As I watched the English dub of the series, I like the Japanese voice actors better for the most part, though I kind of Rei’s amateur VA, Carlee Gabrisch, from the dub.
So, bottom line. If you like Pani Poni Dash!, you need to go watch this. If you like parody animes, this is a solid choice. If you’re not sure about either, this is a good way to enter the series and see if it’s something you might enjoy. read more
43 of 43 episodes seen
The premise is simple, if not a bit cracked out, and the first episode serves to illustrate. Onizuka is a former Yakuza who always had a dream of becoming a teacher, and the best one of all time at that. Of course, he ends up drawing quite possibly the most ill-tempered class out of the whole lot, and that’s putting it lightly. This begins a 42 episode long trek to slowly win all students of his class over, and along the way figure out their problems. And in the end, it culminates with the student who has easily suffered the most trauma and the revelation of the event that shook the class to its core.
You know Onizuka’s always going to win in the end, and if you have to ask why, then you still don’t quite understand the premise. What’s important is the journey, how is he going to prevail, and where is he going to screw up along the way. It seems easy but quickly becomes complicated when you realize that the class is actively plotting against his efforts. They’re quite brilliant for a bunch of teenagers. The vice-principal also has a very low opinion of the former gang member and spends a lot of his time antagonizing the situation. On top of that, Onizuka is no pristine member of society; in fact, he’s a wonderfully flawed character. He drinks, he smokes, he’s vulgar, he’s a womanizer, and he acts completely over the top, running on instinct. Despite this you will love him, trust me.
The cast of characters supporting the show are just as important; they are numerous and just as easily flawed. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have trouble remembering most of their names by the end of the series, even the ones that are around from step one. Yet, each of these characters gets to carry the plot ball at some point for their spot in the limelight, and most of them will even have their own crowning moment of awesome. By the end, they’ve all grown significantly under their teacher’s tutelage. It’s the sign of a good series when you can juggle all these characters around and manage to leave none of them in the lurch.
A lot of the series appeal is the ridiculous situations that are generated and Onizuka’s ability to come up with equally ridiculous solutions, and soak up comical levels of punishment. It still delivers elsewhere. This show has the ability to move you, and if you don’t feel anything by the end of episode 11’s dramatic soliloquy, quite frankly you must be dead inside. The great teacher also specializes in life lessons, and if you haven’t managed to learn anything by the time the series reaches its conclusion, then I honestly wonder if we were watching the same show. This naturally lends itself to exploring how the school system is failing to prepare its students for the real world, instead focusing on test scores at the expense of all else. Really the only time this show loses its impact at all are when it veers off the overarching story for a one shot episode, and even those don’t feel terribly out of place and serve as auxiliary character development.
The animation isn’t nearly as pristine as technology allows today. It’s still fun the watch, and the facial expressions in particular are well executed. There’s a lot of action going on in some sequences, and there isn’t any major animation break or loss of what’s going on. The music doesn’t have a tremendous amount of variety; it sets the mood for the situation and then goes merrily away, letting the characters speak for themselves. Steven Blum plays Onizuka to the hilt, and I like the rest of the characters voice work as well for the most part. There were a couple of minor characters I didn’t really care for, but a minor character in this series basically means they get about three lines and then fall off the face of the planet for a few years.
This series is full of greatness. If you haven’t watched it yet, then I don’t care how you do it, watch it. If you have, take a bit of your time to revisit your favorite episodes. It’ll be worth it for all of you. read more
175 of 175 chapters read
This leads into the other characters. Kuwabara is another delinquent who is determined to become more powerful that Yusuke some day. Since he’s not the main character, you can guess how well this is going to work out. He grows in a much different direction though, motivated by a few events in the story (one seemingly minor) and his blinding determination to never give up. Kurama is a formerly powerful demon that has been stuck inside of a human’s body. Forced to see life through humanity’s eyes, he reforms his ways and becomes a protector of the race. Finally, Hiei is an enigma for the majority of the series, you don’t even find out much of his motivations until the final arc. Even he develops a minor form of justice and a grudging respect for Yusuke. Overall, I loved these characters and their interactions throughout the story. Their personality clashes allow for a decent bit of levity to lighten up the fighting backdrop.
If you’re looking for a story, well, it’s a good thing there’s strong characters, because this is a Shonen series. You should check your story at the door. But, a plot still exists, and there are definite motivations to the characters’ actions. A few of the villains can even be painted as a bit unfortunate in their path to evil (or are they really evil?). The ending theme and eventual moral to this whole story is the same as that which Nippon Ichi has taken and ran with for the past few years. Light is not good and dark is not bad. Judging people based on stereotypes and what you’ve always been taught to believe is never the way to go; each being deserves to be looked at based on their own merits and shortcomings. Given that’s the conclusion, it’s natural that Yusuke ends up being a mostly neutral aligned character. Beyond that, like every shonen, there’s going to be those ludicrous points (such as the entire final arc), but just sit back and let it pay off on sheer enjoyment factor, because it will.
Manga pretty well rests on the art style, and this series doesn’t disappoint. I don’t know how many times I looked at a fight scene… then went back again… and again. They’re drawn well, lots of action and explosions and all that greatness. As a warning though, the further you get in the series, the more gore you’re going to see. Backgrounds are well drawn when they’re the focal point of the panel, and take a natural backseat in quality and appearance when they’d end up detracting from the main attraction. The same process applies to the character designs, and they’re generally in that decent to good range that you get in this genre. I do have to say that I liked a lot of the enemy characters, for appearing for such a short time there’s some original design put into them. In particular, I really liked Younger Toguro’s design.
Bottom line, this is a shonen series; you know roughly what to expect in this territory. If you like the genre then I’m going to wonder why you haven’t read this yet. If you’re not much of a fan, this series might not convert you, but it’ll still be a pretty good ride throughout.
Final Score: 8/10 SPIRIT SHOTGUNS! read more