26 of 26 episodes seen
Ouran's characterization is its strong-point: each individual is an exaggeration of an anime template, taken to its very (il)logical extreme. You have your lovable caretaker, your brooding mastermind, your "loli shota-type", a stoic guardian, and a pair of twins, lost in each other's world. Thrown into this multidimensional cast of characters if Fujioka Haruhi, an independent spirit, who doesn't fit in with the throngs of rich kids (not that she cares to), due to her "commoner" origins. Together, they are the "Host Club", paying hired attention to the captivated ladies who have entirely too much time and money that fill the ranks of the Ouran Academy. As the series progresses, you discover the backgrounds behind each of the main characters, and how they came to be what they are today. In addition, you witness the numerous escapades of Suou Tamaki, leader of the Host Club, always guiding the hosts forward towards ever-increasing extravagance.
The brilliantly-crafted characters mesh together to create an image of the "day-to-day" activities of the students at the Ouran Academy. While the primary setting of the story is a high school, almost no academic schooling of any type occurs throughout the series - the focus is squarely upon the activities of the Host Club. Whether it be an excursion to some tourist location, an intrusion into Haruhi's "common" life, or a flashback into the pasts of one or more of the characters, the story never feels forced or artificial. The course of events flow naturally, the flashbacks coincide with events in the present day that share a common lesson with the events preceding it. And, above all else, the comedy is omnipresent and ludicrously fitting the moment, the crown example being Tamaki's Inner Mind Theater, which shows the twistedly exaggerated thoughts going through Tamaki's mind in reaction to something happening.
There are, however, a few negatives with respect to the story. In particular, the plot seems to linger along during the middle part of the series, after the introductions of the individual characters are done, but before the series really gets started with their backgrounds and flashbacks. These episodes could probably have been condensed, or somehow made to fit with the character backgrounds in order to supply more development time for the thrilling concluding arc of the anime.
From a technical perspective, Ouran also delivers. The soundtrack is soothing when it needs to be, reminiscent when it needs to be, and powerful as well, when it needs to be. Between the smooth melodic background piano to the rumbling guitar intro to the ending theme, Ouran's music certainly fits the mood. The sound effects themselves are also natural and expected. You will get used to the sound of flower petals blowing the breeze, as well as the lifting and setting down of countless tea cups. Visually, the style in Ouran is unique, especially with its stylized facial expressions. However, the art style does seem to be lacking at times, in that it occasionally fails to convey the full power of the emotions behind a scene. In particular, while each of the individual facial expressions are well-done, there seems to be too few of them, at least too few to match the needs of the series at large. However, this is but a small problem in the grand scheme of things, and should not deter anyone more watching this excellent series.
So if you're tired of the ordinary, or just want to laugh endlessly at the oftentimes formulaic aspects of characterization and plot used in romance anime, pick up Ouran High School Host Club. The hosts will be waiting for you. read more
25 of 25 episodes seen
Geass's plot is strengthened by its attention to detail in the geopolitical climate that the series quickly establishes from the get-go. While the setting isn't too unique for a futuristic mecha (world divided between multiple superpowers, belligerent native populations fight to reestablish their cultural identity, etc.), the way the events are interwoven with one another sets itself up as being above the status quo. Code Geass also manages to ask some of the questions that other futuristic plots seemingly neglect, either through purposeful avoidance or just through sheer ignorance. From a political / sociological perspective, the setting and the development are especially engaging, posing questions on the topics of nationalism, racism, genocide, and the rules of war to the audience. While you shouldn't expect any profoundly new ideas to arise from the series, the fact that the writers and creators did weave these ideas into the ongoing plot makes the world both more realistic as well as more theoretical at the same time, providing both an environment for the characters to exist in as well a philosophical establishment that they can debate.
However, the writers do not merely craft a beautiful world and leave it alone - instead, they focus much of their attentions, especially in the latter half of the season, towards physically and metaphysically deconstructing the world, both in the direct, tangible actions of the characters as well as the moral questions surrounding their resolve and trains of thought. Such is the development of the actual plot of Code Geass: fluid, dynamic, and engaging. While not entirely unpredictable, the plot's development is seamless in terms of being able to logically move from one event to another, such that the implications of a "cause and effect" paradigm can be observed. At the same time, the plot is also not so simplistic as to be a "Point A -> Point B -> Point C" formula. Instead, we witness the joining and interweaving of multiple, distinct plot lines, which at first glance are independent of one another, but towards the end fuse into one. Then, Code Geass throws us a curveball, and splits the strands again, preparing us for the upcoming Season 2....
The greatest relative strength of Code Geass when compared to most other action / mecha anime are its characters and the way they develop. Sunrise made the intelligent decision of contracting CLAMP to design the characters, since they are both visually and emotionally appealing to a wide array of audiences. Internet messageboards are usually torn between the main protagonists and side characters of the story, each holding one above the others for a personal reason that they see within each one of them. In addition, the side characters are not there merely for ornamentation - even the seemingly minor characters at the sides of the main few are given room to develop with their own storylines and reactions, such that we are never really compelled to dismiss characters as merely being "filler fodder". Prepare to be intrigued by these individuals - from the psychological coldness of Lelouch, to the restrained idealism of Suzaku and Kallen, to the overall question mark that is C.C. The reactions of the individuals combine to form distinct, evolving psychological profiles, allowing the series to be populated by a cadre of multifaceted individuals.
While Code Geass is extremely successful from a storytelling perspective, it does have its faults, especially on the technical side. Plain and simple, the fight scenes were not too impressive. That is not to say that they were awful, but the mecha and battle scenes definitely did not compare tot he fluidity of the script nor the depth of the characterization. In addition, especially towards the latter third of the season, the plot does take a few freedoms with regards to suspension of disbelief, as well as falling into the trap of rapidly switching between "tragically dramatic" to "comically relieving" scenes. However, these are minor problems, especially the "bloated plotlines", which fixes itself by the end of the series. I also would not recommend this series to mecha addicts who are genuinely more interested in awesome combat scenes between mechas, since Code Geass will not live up to your expectations. However, for the rest of you, even if you have never considered picking up a mecha anime to watch, pick up Code Geass, it is sure to not disappoint. read more
3 of 3 episodes seen
Broken down into three parts, 5 Centimetres Per Second presents the evolution of Takaki TÃ�ï¿½no, as he grows through his early teenage years into adulthood. With him is his childhood friend and love, Akari Shinohara. In breaking the story down, Shinkai achieves a masterful generalization of the the process of growing apart, first through the idealistic lens of a child, to the yearning pathos of a teenager, and finally to the reality of life as an adult. The stories are told in a way such that all viewers can easily see the evolution and growth of humanity's outlook on the development process, while still retaining the human touch of a story, rather than sounding like a dissertation. From this, it is the story that is the true masterpiece of 5 Centimetres Per Second - without it, the themes of the piece are merely abstract concepts without a human face. The emphasis is clearly on the lives of the individual characters, and the events that, while out of our direct control, are constantly pressuring our existence down a specific path, perhaps one that we do not wish to follow. While the movie treats the gap of human interaction as a sadness endemic to the human condition, it also ends on a positive note of humanity's constant desire to reach out to those around us, encapsulated beautifully in the metaphor emphasized in the second part.
From a technical perspective, the animation qualities of 5 Centimetres Per Second eclipse previous animes that I have seen by a long-shot. The backdrops are absolutely stunning, with a fluid of motion between frames that make it look less like an animated feature on a screen and more like the motion of objects directly in front of us. Juxtaposed with this is the quality of the hand-drawn characters, who, despite being obviously of a different animation style, still melds in perfectly with the environment around them. What results is that it appears that the world is actually crafted for the characters - a living, breathing world that will continue to exist even after we turn off the screen, ongoing in its artistic eternity.
My recommendation? Watch this movie - it is the epitome of what is achievable in art. It is a must see for anyone who desires a deeper, richer experience from the stories that they encounter. read more
14 of 14 episodes seen
Characterization. It's the strongest part of Melancholy, yet having said that, the story is filled with endless caricatures, of individuals without depth. In fact, the only two real characters in the story are Kyon and Haruhi herself - everyone else is a reflection of a particular trait or aspect of the world around them. I suppose that makes sense plot-wise - after all, everyone else was essentially conjured up by the sheer boredom of Haruhi. Instead, Melancholy replaces quantity with quality, sharing with us two pristine examples of how characterization should be done, not only in anime, but in all stories in general.
We learn of the events of the story from Kyon, a sarcastic, wise-cracking high-schooler, much like you or I might have been at that age. He's cynical, yet a hopeless romantic, blasÃ©, yet still deeply caring when he wants to be. In essence, he's imperfection personified: a true, down-to-earth human being who is already struggling with just living out his own life (you can just hear the pressure in the tone of his voice) without having to deal with some crazy psycho-lady who believes in the existence of aliens, espers, and all that jazz. His interactions with Haruhi are akin to an older brother playing along with the facile fantasies of an overimaginative younger sister. Yet, within his nonchalant annoyedness during the escapades of the SOS Brigade, his side of caring shines through. You could imagine Kyon to be one of those guys who gets dragged along by his overbearing girlfriend to a bunch of things he doesn't really care about. While you can tell that they really don't want to be there, day after day they're still by their lady's side.
Kyon's lady is not your average lady though. Take the most out-of-touch, fantasy-dwelling, "I'm a superhero" five year-old you know, and then square that, and you might have someone who can come close to comparing with the eccentricities of Haruhi. We shouldn't blame her though, she's just vocalizing everything that we each have wondered or questioned ourselves at some point in our lives. She is frank, if nothing else, yet at the same time, much like Kyon, an image of imperfection. Haruhi is exceedingly selfish (or, more correctly, self-absorbed). At the beginning, she can't seem to fathom when anyone would not think of the world in her terms, and places all those who can't (i.e. the rest of the human race) in a category that is below her associating with. Perhaps part of that is because we normal humans cannot identify with the candor of Haruhi in our conscious state, but whatever it is, Haruhi begins the tale obsessed with only finding out who in her high school is a time traveler, or esper, or alien. Haruhi's evolution throughout is really the subject of this anime, and the way that the world is truly opened up to her by Kyon suggests the cure to all of our melancholies. By the end, she's softened up considerably, and while she still has her unique quirks of searching the universe for strange beings, she is also more responsive to the people around her in the "real world".
Unfortunately, the perfection reached by Melancholy in the characterization process is marred by the faults made elsewhere. Most notably is the anachronistic presentation of the episodes. Many fans of the Haruhi series have stated that by presenting the series out of order, it opened up avenues of creative freedom for the writers to fully flesh out the characters in a plot-limited environment. While that is true, and the development of the characters progress mostly linearly throughout the series, the time gaps and discontinuities created by the at times haphazard ordering of episodes tends to present a distraction to the viewer, rather than supporting the overarching development of the plot and characters. The most glaring fault in the continuity is dialogue - too often characters refer to events that have already happened, but have not yet been shown. And these aren't just casual references, you're actually supposed to figure out what's going on in a given episode by the back references to events that you (as the viewer) know absolutely nothing about. I still think that the series could have been presented in the way that it was, but some rewriting of the references are definitely in order, so that there is some linearity in dialogue at least, if not in plot.
My recommendation though is still to watch the series in broadcast order. Having watched it in chronological ordering, the series loses the charms of the character development. Give the wacky, loopy plot presentation a chance, and you will be rewarded by the anime with the greatest character development since, well, forever. read more