24 of 24 episodes seen
If you didn't enjoy the first season, you won't like this.
Every single episode is devoted to the 38 fighters in the tournament and their encounters with one another, and God, what encounters. As viciously brutal, bloody, and uniquely choreographed as the fights in the first season are, they pale next to the fights in the Maximum Tournament.
I have watched thousands of action movies, but there were instances of the Maximum Tournament where my head jerked back, and then slowly shook in disbelief that such a simultaneously awesome and violent scene was filmed.
As with the first season, every fighter is different, and has their own peculiar personality and style.
There are Japanese pro wrestlers, world champion boxers, Greco-Roman wrestling Olympic champions, judokas, karate practioners, Vale Tudo and streetfighting experts, kung-fu guys, Brazilian Jui-Jitsu experts, and a dozen other styles and hybrids.
Virtually every characters is at least interesting, and some are especially likeable and cool, such as Orochi Doppo, a heavily-scarred old man who resembles a jolly old uncle, wears an eyepatch, has a physique that would make Arnold jealous, and constantly cracks jokes.
Karou Hanayama is another favorite, a stoic, gigantic crime boss, wearing an elegant suit, glasses, and stab and bullet wounds along his face and upper body. His calm, understated personality and ruthless effiency would make Ogami Itto proud.
Watching these fighters having their skulls shattered, their windpipes smashed, and repeatedly beaten to bloody pulps in graphic detail is a sight to behold, since the show takes the time to make one genuinely care about each fighter.
The season peaks at the perfect time, too; Baki, the hero, gets more vicious, focused, and intense in each episode, and the fights become more and more spectacular every time.
It all comes to a head in Episodes 22 and 23, with a gritty, emotional battle royale-style final that truly defies the imagination.
At one point, one of the tournament organizers wants to stop the match, as it has gone from life-threateningly brutal to downright grotesque.
At that point, the 70 year old, 3 foot tall patron of the Underground Arena, Tokugawa Mitsunari, largely comic relief until then, pulls out a dagger and holds it to the organizer's throat, making it perfectly clear what will happen if he goes through with that decision.
Finally, Episode 24 is a neat bonus, as it offers more backstory for Yujiro and his experiences fighting in the jungles of Central and Southern America, as well as introducing the unbelievable badass known as Biscuit "Oly" Oliva (who plays a huge role in the manga continuation).
After watching these two amazing Baki seasons, I can only hope that they eventually make an anime of the Convict and Chinese Tournament sagas. read more
1 of 1 episodes seen
Instead, they just want to cash in on the name in the quickest, cheapest way possible. Well, I am relieved to say that Super Street Fighter 4 continues this proud OVA tradition!
It ostensibly follows Guile, Cammy, and Chun-Li as they track down a new character introduced in SSF4, a Korean witch named Juri.
Throughout the 32 minute runtime, it feels like the creators had less than 10 minutes of real content, but needed to stretch it out as long as possible. Countless scenes and bits of dialogue where all three protagonists repeat "it has something to do with her eyes!", irrelevant conversations between Juri and Seth about the "Feng Shui engine", and flashbacks within the OVA to a scene we watched only seven minutes ago are all used to pad length.
Name an area, and this OVA embarrasses.
Character designs? Guile looks like a fat, amorphous blob. I actually took a screenshot at one point, the appearance was so ridiculous. The animation overall? Numerous missing frames, often during the fights themselves, and lots of shoddy, ugly cells outside of the fights.
Things like "story", "characters", and "dialogue" barely even apply here. Instead, we get some cliche evil villain laughs, and Juri being contractually obligated to say the word "play" twice per sentence. There is also apparently a website that tracks mysterious secret organizations in places as remote and obscure as snow-covered mountains in the Himalayas. Apparently, whoever set it up has trillions of microcameras all over the world. No real explanation is even attempted for this.
Juri is the extremely annoying cocky villain. Cammy, Guile, and Chun-Li are all the same bland, faceless hero types.
The dialogue is truly insipid. I thank God the audio was in Japanese, as simply reading it made my eyes bulge, let alone listening to it. Every character appears to be clinically retarded.
The plot holes boggle the mind. After Chun-Li is crushed by Juri, and Guile is also beaten like a drum, he tells Cammy to go after her. Oh wait, this is AFTER Cammy was defeated by Juri from a single punch earlier. Apparently, sending agents to certain death is standard protocol in the idiot universe of this OVA.
"Alright, alright", you're probably wondering, "enough with all that extraneous bullshit. What about the motherfucking fights?!"
Well, they are garbage. There are 3 real matches in this OVA, and all are one-sided squashes, with Juri nary getting so much as a scratch against Chun-Li, Guile, or Cammy. Hell, I think Guile is the only hero who even lands a SINGLE hit against her, although she barely even flinches, and destroys him in the very next moment.
Also, instead of SHOWING us all the action, some of it occurs off-screen, and in other instances, Juri's eye glows menacingly in preparation for an incredible, vicious attack...but then the camera simply cuts away. Some time later, we see that her poor opponent is unconscious or dead. Way to screw the fucking audience, guys.
That being said, these 3 mostly shoddy, anti-climactic fights, with bright colors but shit choreography are still an improvement over the ones in "Ties that Bind" and arguably "Street Fighter Alpha Generations".
Also, this OVA is a mere 32 minutes, well over 13 minutes shorter than either of its two predecessors. If nothing else, the torture doesn't last as long.
And as a token of my gratitude, I am giving this OVA a 2 instead of 1. read more
6 of 6 episodes seen
Essentially, he's a giant asshole, who makes life for the relatively innocent humans of his town an absolute nightmare.
It's an intriguing premise for a series, and with its fast pace and occasional laughs, Dark Side Cat is a quick, enjoyable 6 episode, 6 minute watch.
However, there are flaws preventing this from being anything truly great or special. For a series based around Dark Side Cat's dastardly exploits, there simply aren't that many action shots of him doing anything cool or unexpected with the exception of the first and last episodes. (Which are, not surprisingly, the best ones)
Instead, we get a lot of very generic, uninspired action shots. In fact, this often mirrors the story, too; Dark Side Cat's "sad" backstory is pretty much as wafer-thin and predictable as that of a JRPG protagonist, as are the personalities of the characters.
And frankly, one of the episodes, featuring the little boy, is downright bad and logically poor.
That being said, 5 out of the 6 episodes have genuine moments of laughter and excitement throughout, making this one of the better ONAs I've watched.
With regards to the art, it uses a very two-dimensional, cardboard cut-out style, similar to what one sees on "South Park". Clearly, budget was a factor, but it doesn't end up harming the series much.
The music consists solely of Dark Side Cat's theme, a catchy dance pop beat without any lyrics. It's nothing special, but helps set the mood for the action.
Overall, clocking in at a total of 36 minutes, Dark Side Cat is certainly worth watching for a viewer with any appreciation for action or humor, but it's nothing extraordinary, either. read more
12 of 12 episodes seen
The returning characters and excellent opening are largely the same as the first season (mentioned more in my review of that season), which is a good thing. The art is as stylish, vivid, and colorful as ever, and adds a definite flavor to all the gun battles.
Now, there are three different story arcs, each completely independent of one another; the murderous twins, Greenback Jane, and the Yakuza fighting back in Japan.
The series starts off with the Romanian siblings, two eight year olds with white hair carrying a mini-gun and an ax larger than they are themselves. These two little children love to kill, and are so dangerous that they wreak havoc upon Roanapur, killing dozens of high-level, powerful gangsters, including those from Hotel Moscow.
Now, I understand suspension of disbelief, and I realize that the gun-wielding heavies in the Black Lagoon universe are supposed to be bizarre, unorthodox characters, from chain-smoking nuns to chambermaids wearing glasses, but this is absurd.
Even in the Black Lagoon universe, it doesn't make sense for two FRAIL CHILDREN to single-handedly cut through droves of gangsters and expert gunmen like so much confetti. The only way to pull this off is to inject humor, but there is none of that in the first three episodes.
The emotional melisma surrounding the end of this arc is both unnecessary and poorly executed.
Next up is Greenback Jane, a straightforward action arc about a counterfeiter on the run, with all of Roanapur's deadliest criminals after her, and only Eda and the Black Lagoon company around to protect her.
It's mostly action, with several funny scenes, and little character development, an Eda flashback aside. It's decent fare, but I found a few key moments disappointing. Without revealing any spoilers, there are several notorious gangsters fighting against Eda and Revy.
A few of the less important ones die, but the main ones, with significant backstory, curiously survive, only one with serious injuries of any kind. Now, I understand they wanted to save them for Season 3, but it's anti-climactic, a cheap device from the creators.
In the ruthless Black Lagoon universe, when two heavies battle it out, one should die.
Finally, we come to the last six episodes, which cover Hotel Moscow's quest to destroy several Yakuza families in Japan, quality time spent between Revy (fully-clothed even!) and Rock near the latter's home, as we are also introduced to a cute schoolgirl named Yukio and honorable swordsman Ginji, who can slice bullets in half.
This might very well be the best story arc in the entire series, Seasons 1 and 2, and corrects many of the things I disliked about the earlier episodes.
If you read my review for the first season, one of my biggest complaints was the character of Revy, that she was a character with no depth or reality, and was boring and stupid to boot.
Well, by the end of Season 2, she has been transformed into a much more understandable and most importantly, FUN individual.
No longer is she hysterical, crazy, nor does she talk as much ridiculous shit. She's far more competent, rational, and even her character is developed, as we see her interacting with children, and she shows genuine compassion and love for Rock.
The overall character development in these last six episodes is excellent. A lot of attention is paid to Miss Balalaika, as she cements her status as the coolest, most competent criminal in the series. Her blend of stoicism with charm, humor, and the ability to do whatever is necessary to crush her enemies is entertaining to watch.
Even the minor characters, like the violent, insane Chaka, with facial piercings, blonde hair, and a purple suit, are well done.
He is a neat reference to Kakihara from "Ichi the Killer", minus the love of sadomasochism.
The story itself drags a little with overly abstract, emotional dialogue, but it's not terrible, and is at least relevant to the central theme, which concerns the transition and choice between criminal or peaceful life.
The last six episodes make up for the beginning of the Second Season, but not enough to propel it into "great" status.
Highly recommended for anyone that enjoys action and a fast pace to one's anime, as well as unusual personalities. read more
12 of 12 episodes seen
"Black Lagoon" is a story about an ordinary, boring Japanese businessman named Rokuro who is kidnapped by pirates, and, realizing his previous life existed at the mercy of cold, impersonal business executives, decides to change his life path. He joins the pirates.
While most series would take at least five episodes to explain this, without even diving into the main part of the story, "Black Lagoon" takes just two. From the very instant one begins watching the series, there is no waste of time, and the episodes have a maniac, crazy energy and pace to them.
Rarely is there a second wasted, as every moment of the series is devoted to either character or plot development. Combined with the ridiculously cool, sexy intro, and some amazing gunplay and action scenes, the anime built up a lot of goodwill with me already.
However, it gets better; there is a subtle undertone of comedy, with all the dangerous, powerful characters being women in ridiculous costumes, whether it be traditional Chinese dress, a nun's habit, a chambermaid's clothes, or the attire of a secretary/businesswoman.
The main character, "Rock", is both relatable and interesting. The temptation to turn him into a gun-wielding badass as soon as he joins the crew would be too easy, and is a trap the director avoids. Instead, he gradually becomes a tougher and more impressive individual throughout the twelve episodes, but never competently handles any weaponry.
The captain of the ship, "Dutch", is another character type I'd like to see more of in action animes; calm, funny, great at his job, and tough, who, just when you think you have him figured out, does something unexpected.
There are only three reasons why I give this legitimately excellent anime an 8 instead of a 10;
1. The character of Revy. This is the biggest one to me. There are two problems with her; the first being that she is entirely unsympathetic. There is just nothing likable about her. She is a crazy, hysterical maniac who kills innocent people, including women and children with no mercy, and likes it.
And that's fine. Mugen from "Samurai Champloo", one of my favorite anime characters ever, was similar.
Here's the reason why I like Mugen and hate Revy; there is nothing funny, interesting, or even REAL about Revy.
Throughout the series, she is humorless, boring, and predictable. She gets angry at criticism. She goes on psychotic killing sprees for no apparent reason. She kills innocent people. She talks a lot of shit. She enjoys it.
A cold-blooded, ruthless killer needs something to make them engaging, whether it be humor, or a viewer's ability to relate to their emotions. Otherwise, what's the point?
At least make them unpredictable, as Mugen was. At least don't make them talk stupid shit all the time. As Mugen would say after his opponent gave a long speech, "I didn't understand a word of that. You talk too fucking much. Let's fight!" Revy, meanwhile, loves spewing dumb quotes which, instead of making her look tough, make her look weak and foolish.
The worst part is her lack of reality. I can relate to Benny. I can relate to Rock. I can relate to Dutch. I can even relate to Balalaika, the Russian crime boss who aids the pirates.
I cannot relate to Revy, nor have I ever known anyone remotely similar to her. If she were interesting or funny, that would be excused. Since she's nothing but a loud-mouthed bitch, it isn't.
It almost feels like the director wasn't quite sure what to do with the character of Revy. At times she's strong. At others she's weak. Sometimes, she talks like an idiot. Other times, she finally shuts the hell up. Too bad she's an annoying character ALL the time.
2. Repetition and an underwhelming ending. I only really felt this during the last two episodes of the series, but it seemed like the writers wasted too many of the cool ideas early on. Without giving anything away, the story with the Fake Nazis, the killer maid Roberta, and even their initial predicament are all a lot more exciting and inventive than their race against the terrorists.
3. The contradictions. While all anime series blend fantasy and reality, the universe they create should try to remain as internally consistent as possible. Unfortunately, that's not always the case in "Black Lagoon".
A particularly head-scratching moment was Revy's showdown with Roberta. Roberta is seen as practically invincible, easily handling Dutch, all the pirates, and even an entire Colombian drug cartel.
Revy, meanwhile, was shown as being physically weaker than Dutch, not much stronger than Rock, fails to kill Rock at a key moment, and not vastly overwhelming against Dutch even with guns.
Yet, her fight with Roberta is mostly equal, with perhaps a small edge to the latter. There are several other instances of this in the series, and in each case, they draw the viewer out of the exciting world of "Black Lagoon" to a large extent.
My nit-picking and criticism aside (the only reason this series isn't a 10 for me), the 12 episodes were still incredibly enjoyable, and I recommend the show to anyone, even for those who aren't action fans. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
As diverse as "Cowboy Bebop" was, it has nothing on the sheer schizophrenia of "Samurai Champloo", Watanabe's most recent effort. On the surface, it's a mixture of comedy and samurai epic about Japan in the mid 1600s. However, that doesn't do the series any more justice than calling "Cowboy Bebop" a space western.
One episode is a Shaolin Soccer-esque comedy about a baseball game. Another is a zombie horror story which doubles as an allegory for World War 2. The series presents historically accurate facts about the spread of Christianity in Japan side-by-side with rocket launchers, talks about Edo-style painting and Vincent Van Gogh in the same episode as punks with switchblades and green mohawks.
There are young street gangs painting graffiti, near-invincible blind warriors modeled upon Zaotichi, honorable samurai warriors, arrogant fashion designers, mid 17th century Japanese beat boxing rappers, and eating competitions.
Hip-hop and rap music is as prominent as traditional Japanese and Aina-style music.
Most directors attempting such a crazy mix would be met with failure and ridicule. However, Shinichiro Watanabe manages to succeed, and he does so thanks to several different elements;
1. Comedy- Samurai Champloo might well be the funniest anime series I've ever seen. Whether it be over-the-top action scenes, great situational comedy, or the absurdity of so many different elements in the same time period and place, there are certain moments in the series that will have one gasping for air.
2. A hard, brutal, uncompromising story- The above works especially well because of how gritty, bloody, and tragic the majority of the story is. Most of the characters die. There is rarely a happy ending. Even in the instances when the good guys "win", it's not clear whether they're better off than they were originally.
3. Misdirection- In every series or movie, a director can leave lots of minor hints and clues about what's going to happen. Most of the time they are fulfilled. In this series, though, Watanabe does the exact opposite of what one is expecting.
A small example of this is when an old man is giving one of the samurai protagonists, Jin, a lecture about going with the current to catch a fish. The man is clearly wise, the music becomes serious, and like lightning, his hands dart through the pristine, blue river. His hands rise above his head, clenched hard, golden in the light of the sun.
Suddenly, the record scratches, the man opens his hand, and it turns out there's no fish.
"Well, sometimes they get away, anyhow!" the man exclaims with a laugh.
There are dozens of such examples throughout the series. The ending is probably the best case of misdirection, being the complete opposite of what I expected.
4. Memorable characters- While the former pirate and violent vagrant Mugen is probably the star of the show, and the source of most of the laughs, he does not completely outshine straightman, and traditional, honorable samurai Jin, who is every bit as interesting of a character, and provides plenty laughs of his own. Even Fuu, the girl guiding them, isn't the typical annoying Japanese anime heroine, and is a great set-up and comedic foil for the two mismatched warriors.
This series is an absolute classic, my favorite anime ever. read more
13 of 13 episodes seen
The story is centered around a group of immortal alchemists and their involvement with the Italian-American Mafia at various points from 1930 to 1932. There are three main, separate storylines occurring in parallel, one on the streets of New York in 1930, another on board the transcontinental locomotive "The Flying Pussyfoot" in 1931, and finally, a third one in New York in 1932. Throughout the show, this world really comes alive, thanks to the animation, music, hairstyles, and clothes all contributing to a viewer's sense of what that era in American history was like.
The anime constantly switches from one setting to another at a moment's notice, has events occur wildly out of order, and, to add to the confusion, there are a couple dozen important characters to remember,each with their own back story. While this is completely normal for a novel, it's unusual for an anime, especially one with only 13 episodes.However, Baccano pulls it off, with everything from the art style to the opening theme making it all digestible for the viewer.
Each character, while not particularly deep, is likable, unique, and far from predictable. They're one-dimensional, but that dimension is interesting and funny, and in several cases, even receives development during the course of the series.
This approach to character creation is a strength here; "Baccano" moves at an extremely quick, frenetic pace, with a plethora of different characters. Choosingto make all the characters interesting instead of focusing on just one,to the detriment of everyone else, was a wise move on the part of the creators.
The story is remarkable for its repeated, constant use of deus ex machina plot devices. In every episode, a great deal of purely accidental events occur that completely change the course of the storyline. A man attempting a magic trick involving fire accidentally burns a house down, and it just so happens to be the secret lab of a character creating the elixir of life. Two characters steal a car and decide to get away, just so happening to hit the main villain right before he can kill one of the main protagonists.
In fact, two of the characters, Miria Harvent and Isaac Dion, are nothing more than agents of these bizarre, accidental circumstances. At first, they only seem like comic relief, being an idiotic, overly cheerful couple that commits crimes like stealing candy bars, fancy hats, and the door of a museum.
However, throughout the story, they come in contact with most of the other main characters, and through their incredibly stupid deeds,optimistic and sanguine personalities, and purely accidental physical acts, change everyone's lives for the good, defeat the bad guys, and save lives... without even realizing it.
Normally, I'd criticize a story for so many absurd and improbable events, but since random circumstance are a central theme of Baccano and is openly acknowledged as such, it becomes both a humorous and entertaining element of the plot.
The art and music of the show are used to enhance and highlight the characters and story. The opening theme is a catchy blues theme that also lists all the main characters by name. Throughout the series,we hear upbeat, 30's era jazz and swing, which helps immerse the viewer in the story's environment.
The animation style uses very unique faces for all the main characters,making them easier to distinguish. Everything besides the character faces is drawn with very indistinct, smoky lines and a warm palette,giving one the impression of hazy Mafia backrooms, with green felt,cards, huge cigars, and Jack Daniel's whiskey.
Overall, the pacing, humor, and action in the series is great, and the plot climaxes in the final episode, resolving most of the mysteries earlier in the series.
Now, for me, a "9" means a masterpiece classic, and I think Baccano deserves this title. However, there is one problem I have with the series.
As good as the show was, none of the episodes in the series were spectacular.Nothing I saw mesmerized me, or made me feel I had just witnessed a work of supreme genius. It was a good story, with good characters,excellent sound and art, directed well.
Before the hardcore Baccano fanatics go crazy, ask yourself; what episode here stood out for you, really amazed you with its brilliance?The last episode was the most satisfying because it answered all the questions, but what episode had something unexpected, magnificent, and fantastic in it?
Nitpicking aside, Baccano is among the top 10-15 anime I've ever watched, and highly recommended to any fan of the medium. read more
5 of 5 episodes seen
It's not trying to be thoughtful and original. It's not trying to be a masterpiece.
Rather, it's a typical samurai-looking-to-avenge-his-father story, the only difference being that here our protagonist is black, and enjoys an icy glass of lemonade. The series does manage to succeed with its characters; while they're mostly cliches, they're also humorous and light-hearted enough that one enjoys their presence.
But ultimately, this series is all about the action.
And in that capacity, this anime succeeds; the fights between Afro and his enemies are visually stunning and well-choreographed. The movements are original, the enemies are bizarre and detailed, and motion feels very fluid.
As with "Snakes on a Plane", the title tells you all that you need to know; "Afro Samurai" is a fun, entertaining series, which is all it ever strove to be. read more
27 of 27 episodes seen
As a result, these episodes often feature brutal mutilation and death, especially when the much-maligned pigs are involved. At first, this type of bloody gag comedy is fresh and funny, especially considering the cute and childish animation aesthetic.
However, very quickly, the humor starts to feel over-used, boring, and worst of all, predictable. The first two times pigs get killed, it`s funny, but by the twelfth time, the audience is sick of it. It`s almost like the creators had two really funny ideas, and then decided to use each one multiple ones, because they had nothing else. A one-dimensional joke can only work so many times.
It should also be noted that Nekojiro is 27 1-minute shorts. There's no music, and the simplistic art is precisely what appears on the database page. Those categories don't apply or affect the series in the slightest. Hence, overall, Nekojiru is one of the weaker brutal humor shows I`ve seen.
If you want a black comedy with more variety, funnier jokes, and far more violence, check out "Metalocalypse". read more
81 of 81 chapters read
The reason for this is simple enough; of all the exciting, interesting places to base a story, high school is just about the worst. Choosing this as a setting is simply pandering to one's audience, nothing more.
However, despite so much working against it, "Veritas" manages to pull this off. This is no ordinary school; it's a place for instructing exceptional fighters, set up by an organization called Reunion, which has mastered biotechnology and robotics at a level far beyond anything in the real world.
None of the main action occurs in the classroom either; instead, the manga is a series of tremendous fights interspersed with political intrigue and mystery.
At the center of all this is the hero, Gangryong, the typical, strong-willed, never give up, never back down street fighter. While at first just an ordinary juvenile delinquent, his life changes when he comes across Lightning Tiger, a tremendous warrior who begrudgingly takes Gangryong on as a pupil.
After Tiger's supposed death, Gangryong is recruited into the school as his late master's only student.
While this could easily turn into a non-stop fight manga, (not that there's anything wrong with those!) there is a great deal of exposition and mystery connected with Gangryong's sponsors, the struggle between traditional martial artists like Lightning Tiger and Reunion's own brand of synthesized, bio-engineered martial arts, and the battle for the title of the head of Heaven's Riches that includes the school's student council as well as its adult sponsors.
While the story is well done, and the fights are brutal, gorgeous, and exciting, the manga manages to include a number of funny, humorous moments as well. It never takes itself too seriously, which just makes it that much more fun to read.
The place where this work really stands out most is the style of the characters. They just look cool. Gold chains and pendants around their necks, bracelets all over their arms, beanies over their heads, (in one case) a tribal tattoo, and a generally cool, trendy vibe are a hallmark of every significant character.
The guys all have hard, chiseled facial features and a moderate, well-defined amount of muscle. The female characters have soft faces, slim bodies, disproportionately large breasts and ass, and a similar trendy, up-to-date sense of style.
All of this might seem besides the point, but it's not. Having the characters look interesting, appealing, and (gasp) like a bunch of trendy high school youths makes the illustration more entertaining and the story more palatable.
While it undoubtedly alienates a portion of its readers, who won't be able to identify strongly with most of its cast, it's a fine decision on the part of Veritas's creators.
In terms of weaknesses, Veritas suffers from some predictable fights and scenarios. They're done well, but on several occasions, the creators had a chance to change it up, but opted to go for the more familiar route.
Still, 30 chapters in, this manga continues to be outstanding, and I eagerly anticipate each new release. Highly recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in action manga. read more