12 of 12 episodes seen
Let’s get the technicalities out of the way. The art and animation is as beautiful and Victorian-Gothic as the first season, though the animation did slip at times. New pieces of music by Taku Iwasaki (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Soul Eater) are introduced along with new characters, thus being their character theme songs. And he sure does not disappoint. Again, in keeping with the theme of high class Victorian England classical music (or pieces that are inspired by those roots) are used, violin being the most distinct sound out of the instruments. Animation for the OP is taken up a notch and again we have two sets of animation for the OP song “SHIVER”; both of which were fitting to the song and showed two different styles of art; the first animation being the more unique and visually stimulating one.
Now that sound and art is covered, time to sink our teeth into the real meat of it.
So how does one solve the problem of concluding the story from season one, especially with the amount of mess it had been put into? Why, just create a couple of new characters, slap ‘em in and you can create all sorts of plot lines and justifications.
Enter (or rather waltzes and tap dances in) our scapegoats; Alois Trancy, a bipolar; sadistic; misogynistic and rather scantily clad fourteen year old boy and his poker-faced butler, Claude Faustus. Along with the beautiful dark skinned maid, Hannah Annafellows and the silent triplet servants you have yourself the Trancy Household.
Already the anime is set up for a Trancy VS Phantomhive storyline, and it indeed takes that turn, for the better part of the show anyway. Simultaneously it tells us of the involvement of the new master and butler to Ciel’s own past. Easy isn’t it, to just make up characters for the convenience of the story? True, it isn’t the most respectable way to go about wrapping up a storyline but A-1 Pictures does it in a way that doesn’t seem like an obvious convenient plot device but actually attempts to build a relationship between the new characters and the viewers, which I can’t really say the same thing about the first set of master and butler.
First things first: No, this season does include ANY material from the manga in any shape or form, but considering how much the first season had flown off on a tangent it does not really matter, as if content from the manga (such as the anticipated circus arc) were to be included it would just be filler and would not relate to the happenings of the season. This does not mean that this season is ‘pure filler’ though as some fans have stated; instead it can be seen as an ‘alternative storyline’.
The plot itself is not the best, but neither is it the worst they could have done. The introduction to the new characters was a decent move A-1 Pictures made, even though – as I said before – it was not an entirely respectable twist. Because of the short season (only 12 episodes long) there were fewer opportunities for plot holes, and the frequency ratio of random twists had depleted considerably compared to the first season. Some fans argue that there were more inconsistencies and plot holes than the first season, but quite frankly, I have to disagree. This season is as, or a lot less plot hole filled than the first season. It required people to work things out and guess. Nevertheless, there were some semi-serious plot issues but I appreciated how the story was a lot more consistent and actually seemed planned out.
The brilliance of this short season has to derive from the nature of the show however. There’s a reason why the rating has been raised since the previous season from a PG-13 to an R 17. It’s vulgar. Quite disturbing. And very crude. One of the many things I disliked about the first season of Kuroshitsuji was how there would be an awkward transition from serious business to idiotic comic relief, which would just kill the dark atmosphere of the show that was built up. Heavy topics such as prostituting and abuse are brought in, and the entire series was kept mostly enigmatic and dark.
But to be honest, the story wasn’t what really shone during the course of the show. It was the characters. Not just the new cast, but also the old familiar faces.
For the first time, Sebastian the “perfect” being has met his match, an equal: Claude Faustus. Claude contrasts greatly with Sebastian. Rather than being mischievous and teasing he is straight-faced and serious and very, very undeservingly hated – and mostly for being true to the nature of a demon: sly, cunning and untrustworthy. Demons aren’t known for being the most docile of all mythical creatures, and this is prominent in Kuroshitsuji II. The new butler drove the plot of the season, and I have to commend A-1 Pictures/Square Enix for not merely pampering the fans with what most would have had anticipated: a Claude arse-whooping by Sebastian. Sebastian is repeatedly put in a befuddled state, which did not just add that much more realism to him, but also made the viewers connect with the character a bit.
Alois is definitely one interesting kid across any anime. From being happy-go-lucky, to a practicing sadist and cross-dressing (Can anyone say Maria Holic?) Alois displays an array of characteristics which combined, would indicate to your classic psychopath. And as with almost all mentally unstable characters, he did not have the most pleasurable childhood in the world. Thankfully, there was no sob story as there was a disgusting and disturbing past. Truth be told, I found Alois’ nature and antics to be quite entertaining, refreshing and again, a big contrast to Ciel’s personality.
Unfortunately, his character had been marred by the suggestive clothing he dons. You can’t take a psycho 100% seriously if he is wearing hot-pants and leather high heel boots, which sadly is the case with Alois Trancy. I wish I could say that the fan service was just limited to this, but it isn’t.
Fan service is blown WAY out of proportion. Every episode is gorging with it. Think of the first season. Now times the fanservice in that by 10 and you have a rough idea of what Kuroshitsuji II is like. Depending on the viewer, this can either be a plus or a minus. And weirdly enough, although there is triple the gay in this season, there is also fanservice aimed at men.
Re-introducing the maid of the Trancy Household; Hannah Annafellows, the object creating fanservice for the guys. Victim to Alois’ fits of abuse and her clothes ripping as easy as tissue (and always in the area where her cleavage is...I still wonder how her back doesn’t snap holding up a rack that huge), Hannah is, for the first time in the entire Kuroshitsuji franchise, a female character who is a PART of the show; though this does not seem apparent at first.
The biggest problem this show has (which, ironically, is the exact opposite of the first season’s problem) is the length of the show – it was too short. Too short to make it as grand an ending it could have been. Kuroshitsuji II had the potential to be great, but then ended up anti-climatic, which was a shame really considering how great the first two-thirds of the anime had been. I just wish Alois could have been expanded on, as such a interesting and unique character as him is ever so rare. Even so, this season presented thrill, suspense and comedy that wasn’t as strong or well carried through in the prequel.
And what a great comedy it is at times. Not the obvious and staged comedy the show usually (awkwardly) presents with its idiotic antics or side characters (the Phantomhive servants) but with its UNINTENTIONAL comedy. Some of the fanservice, or scenes were just plain ridiculous; you’d double over from laughing at it.
Sequels are dangerous, but nowhere near as dangerous as a demon lusting for your soul. Kuroshitsuji II should be taken with a grain of salt – it most definitely isn’t the best it could have been, but honestly, it could have been a lot worse. If not for the open ended conclusion, which is most likely to lead onto a third season to milk the proverbial “cash cow” I would have rated this higher, but as it stands, it is decent enough.
But you can never please all the fans, and this has never been truer when it came to Kuroshitsuji II.
39 of 39 chapters read
After School Nightmare is such a shoujo manga that keeps me on my toes by meshing together the two types of shoujo, plus adding its own flavour of the psychological streak, to create an unorthodox balance between fairytale romances and dark, depressing stories. There’s a reason why it is rated 16+; it leans more towards the genre josei and rightfully so: it is packed with heavy content, sexual situations and even has VERY strong themes of incest. At times, the psychological impact it made on me was so great I felt like crawling into a cave.
After School Nightmare has a questionable premise. Think you had or have it bad as a teenager? Not only does our protagonist, Mashiro have to deal with school life, insecurities and sexual frustrations like most teenagers...but he also has to deal with a gender-identity crisis. Neither male nor completely female, Mashiro is born with the body of being half male from waist up, and half female waist down, living life as an intersex being. Because of his condition Mashiro can never truly feel comfortable in his own skin, and never truly knows his place as a male or a female. Then there’s our other two main characters; Sou, the enigmatic male classmate with trust issues and Kureha, a tragic girl who is afraid of men to the very core of her being.
The After School Nightmare starts. Students with inner conflicts (such as Mashiro, Sou and Kureha) must take a class once a week after school in order for them to be able to ‘graduate’. The subject? Dreams. All students are thrown into one collective dream; and in it they must try to find a key that will open the door to ‘Graduation’.
Now, what most may ask when venturing into this work would be “What is this ‘Graduation’? What happens when you graduate?” This is never explained or elaborated upon until the very last pages of the final chapter, but constantly is it brought up and speculated about.
The dreams are one of the most interesting aspects of the manga. Like most dreams it is abstract, and so it is up to us, the readers and the characters in the story to figure out the meaning -- but tells us about the situation and characters more clearly than dialogue or narration ever could. All the participants are not in their usual bodies, but instead take on forms that reflect themselves. They act out gruesome slaughter; they learn things of each other i.e. their stories; their struggles; their sanity and most of all, they learn about themselves.
The story and writing is clever. It is riddled with metaphors, allusions, thought provoking ideas and woven with many layers. Characters are given a streak of realism with their dialogues and actions – they anticipate the other person’s move and respond realistically accordingly to it, as opposed to the majority of stories which are mediocre, where everything happens in a convenient manner i.e. Person A is heartbroken and ‘just happens’ to be alone in a room with another person. Person B takes advantage and advances on Person A. Setona Mizushiro, author of After School Nightmare, give her readers more credit than that. Nothing is given to us in a frank or blunt manner. Recurring themes run throughout the whole or part of the series, hinting to us till the very end and we are pushed to use our minds to work things out ourselves, including the ending.
ASN is rich in characters, both main and supporting. Mizushiro manipulated all of her characters well. Frequent and minor characters are treated with importance and every character (even the ones in the backgrounds whom you would not pay attention to) is interconnected to the dream. Mashiro is perhaps one of the most interesting characters I have ever come across in a manga or anime because he struggles to settle with what sex he is, so sees life from a “gender” perspective. For example, he would kiss a girl because “that’s what a guy would do” and the prospect of him actually having feelings for the girl does not even come to mind. Throughout the manga the Boys VS Girls debate is brought up (which is the better sex, the stronger one?) and points about one gender or the other is constantly brought forth.
Kureha and Sou, our other two main characters were so brilliantly fleshed out and done that they could easily rival Mashiro in taking the spotlight. Kureha, the girl who makes Mashiro feel like a man and Sou, the boy who makes Mashiro feel like a woman were wonderfully interesting and disturbing, and kept the story going.
Setona Mizushiro has a unique style of artwork, combined with the classic shoujo style. By classic, I mean the typical random flowers decorating the panels, and large panels with nothing but writing. Mizushiro has some traits that are unique only to her that makes her art instantly recognizable, like oddly drawn eyes and long lips (which look good may I add) instead of the usual ‘desirable’ small lips in most anime and manga character designs. There is a moderate amount of backgrounds but most of the time it is unnoticeable because of the lack of tones used to bring it out. Mizushiro likes to keep her style clean and simple, leaving the backgrounds to be mostly white and flat.
Mashiro’s character design is amusingly feminine and masculine at the same time in both mannerisms and physique. On that note, people who are VERY uncomfortable with anything related to yaoi or yuri may not enjoy this because of how boyish or girlish Mashiro may look as he is caught between Sou and Kureha’s love for him (but it was fun working out whether he is a gay or a lesbian, I must admit).
The pacing of the story is slow yet it does not have the feeling of being tedious. Rather, it sets a solemn and calm tone to the story as things unravel and to let things sink in. The story itself almost has a quiet and dark feel because of the pacing.
Reading After School Nightmare is like being in a nightmare yourself. It’s not the most pleasant experience, but you just can’t wake up to get away from it (or in this case put it down). It is reads like these that give me hope that not all shoujo are formula made, and that there are some authors who give their readers a bit more credit than they are usually given.
School's a nightmare. But the extra-curricular lessons are where the true horrors lie. read more
2 of 2 chapters read
The most common reason why people come up with an imaginary friend is to have a companion. Although I personally have never had one, I did make up one for my younger sister. A lovely little chap I named “Friendly Ghost” (I know, it isn’t very creative) whom my sister enjoyed playing with very much. Whereas her imaginary friend was there to be a companion, “Hajime” is there to be the scapegoat to Kouhei and Akio when one of them accidently breaks a statue of the principle’s head. Eventually, everyone believes their lie, and a rumour of the mysterious girl Hajime spreads. All is fine until Hajime suddenly appears before them; every detail right to the colour of the cap on her head correct.
The story is one that is a psychological tragedy. It’s psychological because it explores human judgment on the real and the imaginary, and if it isn’t real then is it really a tragedy? For three years Kouhei and Akio sees Hajime before them and throughout that time they have been very good friends with her. The volume is very short with only two chapters which could have been combined to make a 60 page one-shot, but for its length it covers a lot, as well as creating an impact on the reader. It isn’t tactlessly done so that it ends up being a philosophy lecture, one that no one cares about but delves into quite complex topics without being complicated.
A lot of the story is told through narration, from Kouhei’s perspective. Normally, this would lead to a disadvantage as sensitivity to other character’s feelings is not often portrayed well, as I would assume for it to be quite difficult to narrate understanding another character from a bystander’s point-of-view but Ochi-Ichi actually does it very smoothly. He never narrates too much, and balances the story well with dialogue taking over at good places.
Obata’s art remains crisp and realistic as ever. Hajime was released a year after Death Note was being serialized, so you can guess how strong the art it. From backgrounds to the pattern on the clothing, the art has a high level detail. It isn’t as ‘clean’ as some of his recent artwork, but its solid artwork nevertheless. And honestly, need I say more when I mention Takeshi Obata’s name?
I enjoyed Hajime. It’s dark without using gore. It’s thought-provoking without having waffling dialogues. And it’s meaningful without trying to. The pacing is a little too fast; I felt like Hajime’s life and feelings could have been better expanded so that the reader could build a relationship with her, as well as Kouhei and Akio, since the characters themselves are the greatest downfall to this story. Perhaps a volume or even a series may have been better. But for two chapters (or sixty pages long) it does a decent job.
176 of 176 chapters read
Death Note duo Takeshi Obata (art) and Tsugumi Ohba (story) collaborate once again to present to us yet unique addition to the manga world: the journey of two upcoming mangakas exploding their way into Shounen Jump; their aim to become the biggest mangakas in their company. The idea itself is quite simple, but it is one that can stretch very far, with many twists, turns, events and new facts learnt along the way. It is obvious that the story is influenced by Obata’s and Ohba’s own past experiences, making the manga all the more amusing to read as you feel as though you’re reading an exaggerated version of their autobiography.
If anything, Bakuman shows off the level of Ohba’s skill. Even people who disliked Death Note could enjoy this because of the complete 180 turn he (or she) has taken since his (or her) previous work. Bakuman is anything but dark and thought provoking, but Ohba still manages to create a catalysed chemical reaction within Bakuman’s world – a near perfect balance between comedy, romance, drama and that subtly blended in slice-of-life quality (which is so rare in Shounen Jump works).
But ‘near perfect’ is not ‘perfect’. The twists and turns that are presented are a little weak in comparison with Death Note (although I would like to make it clear that Bakuman should be considered as a SEPERATE work). For example, the most major turn-of-events you are most likely to get is simple, like the revelation of the reader’s poll results or the introduction of another mangaka. Such twists are to be expected in such a manga though, as there isn’t much to expand on the ‘exciting’ lives of authors and editors. The twists and cliff-hangers, simple as they may be, are effective and exciting nevertheless and to be honest, are much better than the cliff-hangers of other shounen titles (such as Naruto).
Another (minor) nitpick I have with the story is the ‘everlasting’ romance between Azuki and Mashiro. I am not particularly fond of the “love at first sight” cliché, but what further aggravates me is the strength of their love despite there being almost no basis for it. Then again, I guess most teen love is like that. Despite their arbitrary romance it does become one of the highlights of Bakuman, providing some of the sweetest parts and funniest moments.
Being a story about making manga in one of the most successful franchise, Shounen Jump/Shuiesa, it is no surprise that you would learn volumes about the industry, and the process of making manga. Each and every little trivia learnt has become one of the many delights of reading Bakuman; especially because of the depth it goes into and relevance it has to the entire story. Bakuman has very heavy dialogues; it is not like the other battle manga where most of the chapters are full of action.
The setting is anything but claustrophobic, as some would think it to be. It differs all the time, from their studio to even the zoo and sometimes to all over town when trying to trail a person (yes, I’m serious here). One time Mashiro simply enjoy a Christmas party round his friends’ house. This all adds to the slice-of-life aspect to the manga which I have enjoyed tremendously.
The colourful cast of Bakuman has a very wide range in terms of age, personality, shapes and sizes. One of my favourite things about the characters and story is that it does not solely focus on Takagi and Mashiro’s quest to become the best but shifts its focus onto other editors and authors stories and involvement throughout each chapter. These fluid transitions of focus are matched by Ohba’s skill of juggling all the character’s personalities and making it well balanced.
Again however, women seem to be the victim of misogyny by Ohba. Most of the women portrayed in Bakuman are either stupid or stuck up, with the exception of Azuki who lacks so much personality she is basically just a pretty face. As of late however the cynicism to women does lighten, you could call it character development, especially with girls such as the female mangaka Aoki realising her faults and struggling to change.
Although the cast is fun to read about and likeable, you can see how some of the characters are ‘copy and pasted’ from Death Note: we have the quirky antagonist where the line between friendship and rival is often blurred; the stuck-up and prideful female classmate and bouncy love-struck girl for Takagi. Even Mashiro, the primary lead is lost in the quirk-filled and humorous cast. Nevertheless, the fact that the cast is as wide as it is compensates for this; it almost feels like it’s a hustle and bustle – just like how mangakas and editors lives are.
In addition, Bakuman’s ‘slice of life’ aspect is played mainly through the characters own growth and development. Interestingly enough, Bakuman starts off with two 14 year-old boys but as of recent chapters follows two 20 year-old college students. Yes, they grow! Not just in height but as people too as they take on other challenges in life such as marriage. They literally grow before your eyes.
Ohba’s charismatic story and characters are equally matched (once again) by Takeshi Obata’s excellent art. His style in Bakuman has changed since Death Note to better suit the lighter, more shounen tone of the story, but it still retains that high level of detail and clean cut edge in his drawings. Obata does exhibit a weak point when it comes to drawing female characters though. But his weakness is another artist’s forte; even though I have just classed it as a weakness it is still so good, that it can exceed another manga artist on their best day.
I was also surprised at how well Obata can employ comic drawings as well as serious ones. His silly gag drawing actually evoked some hearty laughs from me (of course it was Ohba who wrote them up – who knew both of them could be so funny?). Close ups and tones are all very well used to create an atmosphere or effect of the moment – be it funny or serious. Or seriously funny. Or a serious funny. Okay, okay, I’ll stop.
Obata’s style at panelling makes each chapter a joy to read. He does not allow each panel to restrict his drawings, which is a personal favourite aspect of his panelling of mine; how the drawings themselves come out of the box and extends further. Of course, this technique would have been meaningless without Obata’s fluent artistic skills.
I think the main problem with Bakuman is its reader’s expectations. Unfortunately, it is overshadowed and constantly compared to by its predecessor, Death Note. But Bakuman is just as entertaining and unique as its authors’ previous work and is just as wonderful a read in its own right. As a reader of both works it is quite obvious that there are some influences, the most notable ones lay in the characters; however there is one definite similarity between the two: they are no ordinary shounen. Yes, Bakuman may have the formula for one (Childhood love? Check; Rivals? Check; Quirky characters? Check; Hot girls? Check) but it still displays a lot of characteristics not found in Shounen Jump’s works: Growing up, multiple character storylines, excellent character interaction and life in general. Most importantly, the arcs are never dragged out! (Here’s looking at you Bleach).
If you do read Bakuman, read with an open mind and forget about Death Note, for it is not every day we get a work like Bakuman and for it to be ridiculed or downplayed because of its origins would be a sad waste of an excellent work like this. For its genre it is probably the best out there with charm and charisma practically oozing out of the pages.
Every week Mashiro and Takagi are closer to realizing their dream, and every week we are there with them in their exciting journey. We explore the world of mangakas, editors and voice actors alike and to all that are close to them. So as they grab their pens to rush for that deadline I shall be rushing to the store to grab my copy of this week’s Shounen Jump. read more
1 of 1 episodes seen
And so begins the production of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” in the Phantomhive household. Master Ciel had intended to put on a play for the disadvantaged children as a means to gain publicity for his company by coming off as a philanthropist. But what’s this – a sudden mishap had occurred meaning his professional actors won’t be able to make it?! Whatever shall they do? Well, his faithful and most competent butler, Sebastian has an idea: cast themselves in the play!
The OVA is a nice little side story that quenches the viewer’s thirst to see some more screen time of their objects of affection. In other words, it is for fans. Nevertheless it is genuinely an entertaining piece to watch with much comic relief and yet another glimpse of an insight to Ciel’s troubled character. The first half is about preparation for the play whereas the second half is the play itself. The play does not quite follow the original version as Ciel had intended to do (forgetting lines does sometimes have that effect on a play) but somehow ends up revolving around Ciel’s own situation since the resemblance to his and Hamlet’s quest for revenge is almost uncanny.
The whole cast of Kuroshitsuji returns in this little OVA; from the bona fide gay shinigami, Grell to the ostentatious and somewhat lecherous Viscount. You get the feeling that it is a little hectic but at the same time sets the mood of the bustling OVA.
Art is as gorgeous as ever, especially with the costumes. Ciel is criminally adorable (I’m starting to feel like a paedophile here) in his play get up and Sebastian is actually out of his butler attire! The second OP is used for this special, and is probably the best piece you will hear during the 20 minutes as all other themes aren’t even worth mentioning in this. It’s not that they were particularly bad as they serve their purpose of entertaining for that moment, but afterwards you won’t even remember that there was music being played.
For a side story, Kuroshitsuji’s OVA provides decent character development for Ciel and shows off Sebastian mischievous side to the maximum. It is both comical and serious, and ultimately enjoyable. To be honest, it was more of a pleasurable experience than the actual series. So to answer that question at the beginning: I think the first option is the most adequate.
After all, where would the Phantomhive household be if Sebastian could not even pull off a play? read more
25 of 25 episodes seen
Set in our time but in an alternate world where global warming isn’t the planets biggest threat but supernatural beings with unique powers are – these beings dubbed the name “Contractors”. They appeared the same time Hell’s Gate did; a mysterious force that covers Tokyo’s sky. Their powers come at a price and the wage is different for every Contractor. Rival organizations kill, back-stab, infiltrate, investigate and work together to uncover the mysteries of Hell Gate.
Our protagonist is Hei, one of these Contractors working as an assassin/investigator for one these organizations. Together with Yin, an emotionless doll; Mao the talking black cat and Huang, a normal middle aged guy; Hei tries to investigate the mystery that is Hell’s Gate and locate his younger sister Pai whilst carrying out the orders/missions from the Syndicate.
Oh, don’t think you’re going to get any more answers or plot revelation when watching the show. By the end of the series we’re left with the SAME standstill story and the SAME questions as the beginning: What exactly is Hell’s Gate? How did it get there? Why did it make people with supernatural abilities emerge? How did it alter the sky? Why doesn’t Hei have a payment for his power? How did he come to work for the Syndicate? Sadly, the endless line of questions we have from episode one is left unanswered.
When entering Darker than Black it can either be a hit or miss – people will either say “Oh, I’ve seen it before” and dismiss it, others will be taken in by the dark American superhero story atmosphere presented in the first two episodes. For the rest of the series it is pretty much a rinse and repeat session with the two episode mini arcs. This is what DtB does well, actually. By creating these mini arcs it doesn’t danger itself into needlessly dragging the same story out and with this manages to cover quite a lot of characters as each mini arc is dedicated to one character revealing their past etc.
But the characters themselves were quite unremarkable. Sure, a masked contractor; a blind emotionless girl and talking cat along with other Contractors; British MI6 agents and police agents sounds interesting enough - but it really isn’t. The characters do develop – as aforementioned there are mini arcs to show this, but they all lack something: REAL CHARACTER. Of course it is not a slice of life, therefore it can ignore the finer details but as they were TRYING to give the characters substance with the mini arcs it just made them fail even worse on giving an individual any spruce: they are all so dreadfully BORING. I ended up not caring about any single one of them.
Hei, on the other hand, was the exception. Forget all the other characters; this is the one who takes the entire spotlight. Probably the most entertaining one of them all – and why not! Playing the normal innocent student by day and an apathetic assassinator by night, Hei is the master of in-character acting. What’s more, with his split personality, insane skills and a mask that screams ‘badass’ he takes control of the entire show, I only wished we got to see more of that side of him. He brought a reminiscent feeling of the character L from Death Note, notably for his crouched stance when taking on the role of the clueless student.
His English voice actor captured the split personality nature of Hei; from the innocent naivety to the cold-hearted killer. It really stood out from the other voice actors, who were – at best – average. However, one of the pros of watching the dub is hearing the British accents by many of the characters. Although it is overdone, at least there is that international appeal in it that the Japanese version will not have. But if you’re not too keen on dubs in the first place then just opt to complete subs. You’ll be missing out on the accents but one of the character’s voice acting was so bad it lowered the overall quality of the sound.
Speaking of sound, one of the saving graces of the show was indefinitely the music. Though the music is most likely forgettable as there was no set soundtrack or theme songs that would be played in every episode, each unique theme that would range from jazz to classical to rock always manages to stir up excitement that would fit in perfect sync with the choreograph or scene. Like Hollywood movies there is a varied track list, so it never becomes repetitive. The OP and ED on the other hand did not live up to the excellent sound during the show – it was good but with the other music they had already set themselves a high bar so that had left their OP/ED to become rather disappointing. One point that comes to mind about the opening sequences is the jogging camera movement in the animation. I thought this was an excellent way to portray the hectic and fragmented nature of the show, and made the OPs a joy to watch. Animation is flawless, as expected of BONES (those awesome guys who brought us Ouran, Fullmetal Alchemist and Cowboy Bebop).
Fans of NGE, rejoice. Well fans of a ‘certain scene’ in NGE rejoice. For the show carries some resemblance to that famous mindfuck anime – with riddled monologues and the infamous “Congratulations” scene almost being replicated in the last episodes (yes, the show does not give us a complete ending). So, if you’re not a fan of the NGE ending, then DtB probably won’t be your cup of tea in terms of ending.
Darker than BLACK is heavily flawed. I felt like they were trying to hard; sometimes it had bad comedy and often enough it had too many loose ends. The story lacks development and the characters do not stand out. However, the series still manages to hook the audience with its dark atmosphere, the menacing Hei and the well orchestrated action scenes (my only qualm about said scenes were that there were too few and too short). The first few episodes are the critical point for the viewer – either a hit or a miss for them, some would deem it as “seen it before”, and others will be drawn into its alluring nature. Also, regarding the second season of the show: that too does not even answer the questions formed for season one, so if you’re okay for vague roundabout answers, dull characters (excluding Hei, naturally) and well choreographed action then DtB is the show for you. read more
13 of 13 episodes seen
To many, the story is – to put it plainly – outright stupid. Students are split into classes from A-F based on their academic skills; A being full of smartarses and F being crammed with quote/unquote “the mentally retarded”. Incidentally, what class you are in correlates to the facilities they have, much like an academic ‘caste system’.
So we have the idiots and tests out of the way, so what about the Summoning Beings? Evidently, there are ways to acquire these prestigious facilities – the obvious one being to score high on the mid-terms...and the other, Exam Summoning Battles. Such battles consist of the student’s being, which is a chibi version of themselves fighting other student’s beings. Much like video games, they have points (which can be considered as health bars) that are knocked off through physical contact. There is little to no “exam”, or any such academic skills tested in these battles, but what the heck – anything goes in anime, more so in this one. The show is already incoherent enough to be questioned at this point.
Akihisa and the rest of F-class duel in these ESB’s to get the hotel-suite like facilities and prove to everyone that grades aren’t everything! Along with that there are love triangles, moé, traps, incest, lolicons, cross-dressing, yaoi, yuri and every anime cliché under-the-sun.
And I for one love it for that.
Brainless comedy is brainless. Filled to the brim with slapstick humour and overacting such as the infamous anime nosebleed and much, much shouting to the point it is classed as screeching; dirty jokes and overall randomness Baka to Test helps the reviewer just sit back, relax and take it in all the over the top nature of the show.
Not only does it spoof anime traits but it also parodies anime shows, the most recognizable ones being that from Gurren Lagann and Code Geass but they are quite subtly played. Knowledge of these shows aren't required to enjoy the show as they are only for minimal comedy relief.
Another wonderfully played cliché are the stereotypical characters:
Akihisa, the idiotic male lead completely oblivious to all the girls lusting over him;
Himeji, the big breasted intelligent yet timid beauty – and the most obvious love interest;
Yuuji, strong willed and often in a comedic duo with Akihisa;
Minami, tomboyish though is actually quite the girl to heart;
Kouta, the class’ pervert;
And Hideyoshi, the ‘trap’ – often mistaken as a girl due to his appearances.
These walking stereotypes were all so superb at keeping the viewers laughing with their antics and traits. But as most stereotypes are – they are restricted. As progress throughout the show went on there was no doubt, a formula in the comedy. There were many spontaneous comedic moments as well, but most of it was rather repetitive. However, I wouldn’t say it hindered the show greatly as it does not insult the viewer’s sense of humour. It knows that we know this or that punch line or act yet it is delivered in such a way that it still stays fresh and funny. Much like a signature catchphrase, each character is assigned a certain quirk, habit or joke which we all come to know and love.
Silver Link’s animation was impressive for an almost unknown company. The only other anime they have actually produced (Tayutama ~Kiss on my Deity~) is not very well known and since then their animation has improved. Although the art and animation is fairly average and similar to most other shows, it has subtle add-ins that would make it recognizable even amongst a hundred different anime, such as the colourful shadows each character has – all different colours, no less and the “spotty” inking in backgrounds and objects. Baka has no trouble integrating different styles of art for either comedic purposes or otherwise – using blindingly bright colours when needed and eerily dark when called for. Music is, just like the art, average. The OP and ED are very skippable and the background music is forgettable.
Baka to Test does the job of using some very well known seiyuus as well as some not so very well known. All display a charismatic quality in their characters and bring out the character that they are. Akihisa is the loud idiot. Yuuji is the sometimes-calm-sometimes-not idiot. Himeji is naively sweet. Minami is an awkward idiot. Hideyoshi...does not sound like an idiot per se, but comes across as amusingly girly. And Kouta is perverted through and through. Just hearing the voicing alone could tell you this.
The ‘ending’ of the show is much left to be desired for, in other words it was quite a letdown. Fortunately it has the opportunity to redeem itself with the second season announced to be aired soon.
Baka to Test isn’t anything that hasn’t been seen before. And honestly the excuse of a story isn’t even well thought out or developed. But sometimes you will have to sit there, laugh it all off and say “That’s just stupid!” read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
Thus we come to Nabari no Ou (English: King of Nabari), an anime which attempts to present multiple character relationships and the complexities of human interaction with a bit of ninja action to spruce things up.
The story is one that had an interesting premise: The apathetic Miharu is told that he holds the power of the Shinrabanshou, a technique desired by the entire ninja world named “Nabari”. He doesn’t really feel anything towards the responsibility until he befriends Yoite, a merciless killer who is on the side that wants to attack Miharu. They both forge an unlikely bond they never had before and Miharu promises to wipe Yoite existence from the face of the earth with his power.
Unfortunately the rest of the show does not live up to this premise. It not only follows this summary, but the stories and relationship of those around them, as well as the entire Nabari conspiracy and plots to overthrow the ninja world. And that is where the first mistake appears. In an attempt to create an eco-system like story where everything affects everything else it dangers itself into using every cliché imaginable. Clichés aren’t necessarily a bad thing when used properly, and Nabari no Ou doesn’t, the worst cliché being “The Chosen One” seen one-too many times. Praise has to come to Yoite’s and Miharu’s ambiguous connection though. If there was a spark of originality it would be them – the friendship between the main protagonist and main antagonist.
As aforementioned, there is an attempt to display meaningful character relationships and it remains just that – an attempt. The failure of this is due to the superficial cast of characters seen a hundred times, seen in a hundred different anime. There’s the spunky girl, the geeky yet strong boy, the all-knowing mysterious guy who randomly pops up, the emo and the beautiful ninja showing a bit too much of that cleavage. I don’t believe it is a bad thing to have the obvious traits in the typical character; but these characters are just outright boring and bland with nothing remotely important to give to the show.
How all the characters affect and are intertwined with each other could more or less be summed up with the following motion: Yawn. Caring less about these people with such pathetic reasoning and whimsical basis for relationships and justifications would be a challenge. Take Miharu’s and Yoite’s relationship for example: Basis for such an excellent bond? Because they are both lonely. The arbitrary relationship was so irrational it might as well be deemed as “Love at first sight”, in which case the anime also had gay undertones.
Miharu also becomes one of the most boring hero’s I’ve seen in any show. Primarily because he is an overly passive one. No, really, he does NOTHING. Most of his screen time consists of him crying for Yoite and waffling on about life.
Now we come to the ‘ninja’ aspect. I was actually looking forward to this part as I thought if anything could redeem this show it would be the action. Again, I was left thoroughly disappointed. We all know how the ‘Ninja’ genre isn’t really taken too literally in anime since they’re about as sneaky and invisible as a bearded lady; but even so, that is no excuse for calling this a ninja anime then having no attributes to the genre in it whatsoever. To call this a ninja anime is like calling Death Note a romance just because an infatuated broad comes along and speaks about “dates” and “boyfriends” or Fruits Basket a shounen because of the odd duel. Out of the 520 minutes you would have wasted watching this show, about 8 minutes of that is filled with rather poorly choreographed action.
Nabari’s uniqueness stems mainly off of the art. It easily catches the viewer’s attention with the sketch-like drawings and water colour inking which makes the entire show looks like a painting. But ‘uniqueness’ doesn’t always mean ‘good’. The low-budget quality of art becomes irritable; especially the sickly anorexic character designs which made me want to force feed them all.
The music themes were assets to the show as well as being a liability. The themes played throughout the show usually consisted of high pitched violin solos which added to moments of drama – a fine piece; however it was the only piece memorable. It wasn’t that it was particularly outstanding but it was CONSTANTLY being recycled over and over again to the point where it Britney Spears’ “Toxic” would’ve sound more appealing to me. The OP song is skipable as it is too annoying to sit through 1:30 minutes of a j-pop opening that sounded like it was sung through the nose.
Being an English dub fan I wasn’t impressed at all by the voice acting. Most of the English voice were just average. Brenda Palencia is an excellent voice actress to portray young boys, but her voice did not fit well with Miharu's character -- probably because of Miharu's split character at times, especially when he to play “cute”. On the other hand, the Japanese seiyuu, Rie Kuguyima did an excellent job in portraying both Miharu’s real personality and his fake one. However, there is one English performance I can truly applaud -- and that is Joel McDonald, who played the emo-like Yoite. He gave the character more personality than the art or character’s actions ever could. Choosing between the English and Japanese audio is a matter of preference -- both versions are equally listenable; so if you enjoy a certain language more than the other then go with it, since there is no extra merit to listen to the opposite language to your preference.
The dialogue was definitely the worst part of the show. Firstly, I wanted to chuck a thesaurus at whoever the screenwriters were due to the fact that the word “apathetic” was mentioned every five agonizing minutes. How about words like “indifferent” or “nonchalant”? Then there was the rest of the dialogue: biggest bull I have ever heard. Nabari no Ou will make you cringe at the unoriginal waffling, and mostly unimportant dialogue. You could forward ten minutes to find that they are STILL babbling on about the same subject.
A dragged out story. Annoying, stereotypical, carbon copy characters. Repetitive sound. Low budget animation. Rubbish action. And the most pretentious dialogue ever. I’m not kidding you when I say this is bad, but by all means check it out for yourself if you’re that much of a masochist. read more
32 of 82 chapters read
The summary does a good job of giving the gist of the manga. For those of you who have read Hana Kimi they will find resemblances between the two; however, unlike Hana Kimi where the situations are over the top and so unrealistic it should have the ‘fantasy’ genre tag attached to it KTHK isn’t as convenient – (Huzzah!). The story focuses more on the friendship between the two males, which later on blooms into something more. There’s not a lot of ‘ai’ in the shounen-ai part of things though this proves to be a much more effective way of displaying the bond between the two. However, that is not to say the ‘couple’ does have its moments.
The characters themselves aren’t that remarkable at first glance. You have Kosaka Kiyomine – tall, moody, strong and of course, the beauty of the school. Needless to say he would be your typical seme. So that leaves the uke, Fujishima Takara. Short, fiery-tempered, feminine physique and quite dependant on Kiyomine. Though these two display the same traits amongst their stereotypes their personalities manages to shine through to the audience as well as the constant progress in their character development. Takara and Kiyomine starts off in stereotypical character shells, but soon changes little by little due to each other.
Surprisingly, there’s a supporting cast too! The manga does not just revolve around the main love interests as there are a bundle of people who are close to the two: either dorm mates, friends or family – all of whom adds to the story in their own way, be it commentating or being the focus of the chapter.
The art, though it may not be the highlight of the manga is fairly decent. Like shoujo manga it uses panelling and much black backgrounds with the scattering phrases to deliver its effect. The drawings are solid, and clear enough to give a good flow to the story-telling.
Unfortunately, this manga is not licensed in English and at the time of writing this review only 32/85 chapters has been scanlated – much to most readers distress as it doesn’t look like it will be uploaded any time soon. Regardless, KTHK is a shounen ai that should have more recognition and popularity – a love story filled with comedy, drama and the occasional ‘moment’.
All in all a fantastic shounen ai.
6 of 6 chapters read
Well Akira Sakamoto does, reason being he is the only ‘normal’ looking one in his family. He comes from quite a large family of six, the third oldest child out of four and is completely plain in terms of looks. The rest of his family is beautiful though, from the youngest sister to the never aging parents. He didn’t even have a problem with how he looked until other people started to point it out.
The manga follows not only him, but his parents, older brother Harumi, older sister Natsuru and younger sister Fuyuki and their troubles in daily life which mostly comes down to their own appearance, social influence and behaviour. Each chapter is dedicated to a member of the Sakamoto family from their point of view motioning each of their stories.
The stories presented interesting ideas, some of which are the classic values of ‘true friendship’, ‘Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’ and ‘be true to yourself‘. It was slightly over the top for a slice-of-life manga with the inhumane ‘beautiful’ nature of the Sakamoto family which presents most of the problems. Nonetheless, the over-the-top foundation of the story is used in an appropriate proportion; so much so that the fact that the Sakamoto family is supposed to be a super model family becomes a minor detail in the bigger picture.
The art is a guaranteed strong point. The pen strokes are bold creating a clean cut image with no fuzziness around the picture. The characters are strongly defined: Tsuda (the author) makes a clear distinction between Akira’s normal physique and the rest of the Sakamoto’s abnormal beauty. Backgrounds are a very rare see throughout the manga. Most of the time there is no background, but the few that exist are excellently drawn.
Family is of course the core of the story. The family atmosphere is a delicate theme that isn’t usually the focus of a manga, let alone a family that works well together as opposed to the typical dysfunctional one.
This is no doubt Mikiyo Tsuda’s (known for her other works ‘The Day of Revolution’ and ‘Princess Princess’) better series. The latter manga is now an animated series which Akira and his family also plays a part in. Compared to Tsuda’s other works it isn’t incredibly far-fetched. Though Family Complex has a foundation that cannot be related to most readers, the actual concept - of feeling out of place - is undoubtedly a common thread in the tapestry of humans.
Family Complex certainly does not have enough depth to become a respectable slice-of-life manga, but as a one volume manga it does a decent job. A light read, filled with enough comedy and uplifting stories it is an easy time killer. If you are a bit of a softie though, it will become much more. Either way, it is quite a memorable read. read more