10 of 10 chapters read
There isn’t much in the way of story here, nor are the characters especially unique or interesting. However, the relaxing, optimistic tone of its storytelling more than makes up for it. read more
60 of 67 chapters read
Now I am going to TRY to explain why this manga is basically the best one I have ever read. There’s not much point in reading past here unless you’re really interested in what I personally find great about this manga. The parts that would be important in deciding whether or not to read it have already been stated, in the previous paragraph and in my Aqua review.
The one thing I absolutely love the most is probably the most difficult to explain. Somehow, Amano imbues the story with what can only be described as magic. Unlike anything I’ve ever read or watched before, this manga sucked me in and immersed me so heavily in the world of Aqua that it felt, at times, like it was completely real. Part of this can definitely be attributed to the artwork, which is nothing short of breathtaking. The characters get a lot of detail on most of the panels (with a very heavy bishoujo leaning for the girls), but that’s not so uncommon, I think. Where Amano excels in her artwork is how she renders backgrounds and scenery. It would be worth praising if she had simply put a lot of detail into her backgrounds, but she goes one step further than that. All environments – whether they be a hill covered in windmills, a narrow, abandoned canal in the middle of Neo Venezia, a dilapidated mansion, or an old train car from the original days of Aqua’s colonization – all of them are drawn with a magnitude of loving detail that is mind-boggling. I am utterly convinced that Amano can draw absolutely ANYTHING and make it beautiful.
The other very big point about Aria is what I can only describe as internal mythology. Many anime and manga, particularly comedies, like to establish inside jokes that come up throughout their run. They give a sense of coherency to the story and its comedic elements, plus they provide memes for viewers to connect with. Amano, however, establishes what seems like a joke at first, but turns out to be a true legend. It shows up, as I recall, six more times throughout the manga, and every time it comes back, the effect is so overwhelmingly magical I can’t really even describe it.
There are many other great things about this manga, like the small romantic factors that sort of come into play, or the designs of the characters, but those two are the big ones that made me fall in love with Aria. They don’t change the fact that it’s slow-paced and utterly devoid of tension, but if you don’t mind the relaxed mood then these things will make it that much more enjoyable for you. read more
16 of 16 episodes seen
The second criterion is how FREAKING WEIRD this show is. All of the “story” is in short vignette form, and is usually pretty crazy anyway – there’s one story later on in the show where a giant high school girl emerges from Tokyo Bay and starts walking around Tokyo, while perverts flock to get pictures of her easily-visible panties. Then in between the vignettes, there are bizarre, random clips that are played on repeat, with weird colors, trippy distortion, and unsettling music. It’s bizarre, to say the very least.
If you do decide that this is worth your time, then I should tell you now: it’s worth it to watch the dub. The English voices are so hilariously bad and stupid, it complements the insanity of the show perfectly. I never thought I’d say this, but WATCH THIS DUBBED.
In summary, this show is weird as shit and I have nothing more to say on the matter. read more
24 of 24 episodes seen
Going beyond the superficial stuff, the characters are very important to this story, and they hardly disappoint. Victorique is, of course, the crown jewel. At first, you’ll think her to be yet another moe-stuffed tsundere, and this impression will probably last for a few episodes. However, as you delve further into the meat of this show, more of Victorique’s history and inner personality rise to the surface, and what you instead find is an incredibly deep, three-dimensional character with a ton of personality. Although she seems very moe at a cursory glance, it becomes apparent later on that her cute tsundere-ness is instead the product of the sheltered, dismal life she lead before the show starts. If you’re a moe lover like me, you’ll fall in love with this girl, no doubt about that. But if moe isn’t your thing, not to worry – she’s such a complex, interesting character that the tsundere-ness shouldn’t be too off-putting.
The only other real protagonist of the story is, unfortunately, not quite as masterfully wrought as Victorique is. Kujou, the self-proclaimed “third son of an Imperial soldier,” is a pretty standard milquetoast-turned-hero character. Not exceptionally smart, strong, or brave, his only real virtue is his utterly bottomless loyalty and sense of duty. This sounds like a good thing – and in most cases, it is, as his loyalty is the foil to Victorique’s selfishness, and usually drives the pair in the right direction – but it does produce a worrying archetype that I know puts off people. If you’re tired of the stories where the meek, loyal guy gets trampled on by the dominant, forceful girl, turn back now. Victorique tramples Kujou into the ground with little-to-no respect for most of the story. This will start to wane as their relationship deepens, but you’ll have to bear through it for a long while. I don’t particularly mind it, but I know some people find it irritating, so a warning is only fair.
The other characters are not especially worth mentioning here, as none of them are especially interesting either. The main villian is a typical power-hungry villian, the useless third wheel is a typical useless third wheel (think Yoshida, of Shakugan no Shana, but louder and, admittedly, cuter), the schoolteacher is a typical ditzy school teacher, et cetera. I find myself liking these minor characters despite their archetypal natures, but perhaps I am only willing to forgive the show in light of the fantastic main duo.
Now we get to the real meat of this show – the story itself. This is where the show’s biggest failings come into play, and it’s most likely those failings that will determine whether or not you enjoy this show. The first and biggest issue is the beginning: for the first five or so episodes, you’ll most likely experience an odd sensation of discomfort whilst watching. You’ll be presented with this well-written and interesting mystery, involving revenge and murder and other such gruesome stuff – but in between these interludes of serious, gritty mystery, you’re shown a rather lighthearted teenage romance story, which (as I mentioned before) has a strong moe feeling to it. The two don’t really blend together at the start, and it feels odd, to say the least. This strange, dissonant juggling of themes will lessen after the first two story arcs, then return for a single story arc at the exact middle of the show. Beyond that, the REAL story begins, and the two different themes blend smoothly and beautifully. I thought it was definitely worth it to make it through the start just to get into the real good part, but others may not be so willing.
The last two-thirds of the show, excluding that story arc right in the middle, is where the viewer is shown the true colors of Gosick. Victorique is no longer just a cute girl who solves mysteries, Kujou no longer the helpless boy who follows her along because he has no other friends (I mean that literally). Victorique’s true past begins to emerge and becomes slowly intwined with the mysteries that follow, and the mysteries themselves usually contribute to a grand scheme that arches over the show as a whole. Kujou suddenly has a reason to follow Victorique along, since the romance between the two deepens dramatically and Kujou’s protective instinct swells by about a million percent. Don’t think that it was too sudden a turn of events, though – the romance is developed very carefully and near-perfectly. It is undoubtedly the best romantic development I’ve ever seen before, although I haven’t watched or read much romance before so that may not mean much. Anyway, the new mysteries in this part of the show slowly become less innocuous and self-contained, and very gradually weave together seamlessly into a master story that comes to a stunning climax in the last few episodes. To say the least, it’s breath-taking, suspenseful, and incredibly moving.
That doesn’t mean that it isn’t without its flaws, unfortunately. I can only think of two things that really mar the proper part of this story, but they seriously irked me. The first is an understandable and somewhat excusable one – namely, the political side of this story. The political intrigue which plays a part in the latter third of the show was, I feel, most likely well-thought-out, but it failed to fully materialize on the screen. Much of the political structure of Saubure is left unexplained, and the viewer is only given passing references to work with whilst trying to understand the motives and origins of all the political figures at play. It’s not a particularly complex political landscape, but it warrants an explanation, an explanation that doesn’t ever see make its way to the viewers. In fact, it might be preferable to simply not try and understand the politics, but enjoy the story nonetheless. This error isn’t grievous or unforgivable, but it’s not a good feeling to be confused when you’re immersed in such a fantastic story.
The second issue, however, is something that I believe could have easily been remedied. The show ended at episode 24, which is two episodes less than the standard run of a show of this length – 26 episodes means one every two weeks, 52 weeks making a full year. So they had room to expand – why did they instead cram the ending into the final few minutes of episode 24? Everything leading up to that last half of an episode is gripping, exciting, perfectly executed, and downright fantastic. But then… it just ends. Suddenly, everything is over, and we’re given a short, unfulfilling final scene which, for some ungodly reason, not only introduces a new character but also has her obnoxiously talk over the characters we actually care about. Sure, it might have felt a little stretched had they expanded the ending into its own full episode, but that would have been much, much better than the cramped little scene we got instead. Also, cut out that stupid woman. I think her presence alone ruined the ending more than the ending itself. Anyway, rant aside, the ending, whilst definitely a good ending to the story, was a RUSHED good ending. A very, very rushed, good ending. It will deprive you of the finality that an ending should carry, and leave you longing for more. Which isn’t a good thing, considering the show is definitively ended at this point; I highly doubt any sequels will ever come around.
Now, I suspect that those of you who saw the length of this review and said “screw that” are presently reading this final paragraph. I will summarize for you lazy people: this show is fantastic in pretty much every way except for three main points. One, the politics are poorly explained and executed on-screen; two, the beginning of the show is strange and misleading; three, the ending, while definitely a good ending, was VERY rushed and VERY cramped. In summary, I don’t expect everyone to love this anime despite the issues as I do, but I suggest that you give it a chance. If you watch until the end of episode eight, and still don’t like it, you probably won’t ever get into it. But don’t judge it based on the first five or so episodes, as they are not a good representation of this show as a whole. read more
13 of 13 episodes seen
The characters are also, for the most part, a high point. The important ones are pretty well designed; not particularly deep or unique, but undeniably interesting and sympathetic. The non-important ones don’t have that much effort put into them, so they end up being pretty moe: T.K. and Shiina being excellent examples of this. They’re both unbelievably moe, but how could you hate them? It’s not possible. One bit about the characters that I found distasteful was the incredible amount of melodrama in their backstories. Understandable, given the setting of the show, but annoying nonetheless.
The story is where this show shines, and also trips itself up. There is a lot, I mean a LOT, of philosophy in this show; all kinds of stuff, like dealing with the consequences of an afterlife and the possibility of God’s existence, to name a scant few. If you’re like to be offended by having your religion completely dismissed by an anime, then stay far, far away, because this show will trample all over you. It’s ruthless in its exploration of death, the meaning of life, humans playing God, all of it. Very, very loaded, and very powerful.
But it’s not all good, unfortunately. The one monstrous issue that this show suffers from is its utter lack of organization or focus. There’s an unbelievable amount of philosophy in this show, but it never got its message through quite correctly or planned out all the way. Instead, it was shoved into the story whenever it seemed opportune, and the result is a bit of a jumbled mess. The first half of the show is a painfully obvious symptom of this issue – I can only assume that the director decided it was too soon to get to the heavy stuff, so he spent five episodes screwing around, making an unbearable amount of flippant jokes towards death (since no one can physically die in this world), then throwing in some more AWESOME FIGHT SCENES!!!!! then remembering that the show was supposed to be serious, so what the hell, let’s talk about this girl’s sad life before she died and how she could never fulfill her dreams. That’s why I have such difficulty figuring out if this is a shounen or seinen: the first half of the show is goofy, tactless, and unfocused, just like a shounen. Not to say it was ENTIRELY bad, it was still rather fun to watch, but in comparison to the rest of the show, it’s kind of ridiculous.
The ending is where stuff gets serious, but like I said, it’s only a little more organized than the first half. I think if they had made the show longer and planned it out better, they could have better presented the complex track that the end takes us on, but instead they condensed it into eight episodes that are confusing to watch. You will most likely spend the majority of this part of the show trying to sort through all the ideas that it’s presenting, and you won’t make sense of it until the very end. That’s where this show really salvages itself, in the last episode and the epilogue. By the time that final episode had started, I had managed to make sense of all the stuff the show threw at me for the last seven episodes, and was able to appreciate the very well-designed ending. It’s a little melodramatic of an ending, but it provides an incredible finality to a very confusing show.
This show wasn’t bad, not at all. But it IS disorganized and rather confusing. You’ll understand pretty much everything when you hit the end, but up until then, the picture is going to be incomplete, and it’s not a good feeling. I suggest this show to everyone but the most ardent of religious types, but be warned that you’re going to have to persevere despite the confusion. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
The cast of characters is also obviously influenced by Western entertainment. Spike, the laidback, goofy badass; Jet, the battle-hardened mechanic and only responsible person on the Bebop; Faye, the tempestuous and self-absorbed woman; they all feel like they were pulled right out of a Western show and animated. Ed is the only exception here – she’s too heavily moe to really be anything but an anime character. The show focuses almost exclusively on developing these four characters’ backstories, and resolving their conflicts from the past. All of them have some sort of important past – Spike and Faye especially – and each episode usually happens to bring those pasts back to them. It makes for a cast of characters that have more depth than many I’ve seen in anime before.
The story – yeah, that’s right, also pretty Western-influenced. The show is heavily episodic, where each episode contains its own small story that’s resolved by the end, except for a pair of stories that were both spread into two consecutive episodes. However, like I mentioned earlier, these little stories have a tendency of bringing in, with incredible regularity, parts of the several grander, over-arching storylines that pervade the show. What looks at first like it could be just another bounty being tracked down, might somehow actually connect to some part of Jet’s old life, or Faye’s, or Spike’s, or even Ed’s (although I think Ed only has one episode that deals with her past). And if the episode doesn’t do that, then it instead uses that bounty to highlight the issues of the setting – usually political issues, sometimes just personal issues that have been blown out of proportion. Pretty much every episode has another layer of depth and meaning to it (except maybe the mushroom one because I don’t really know what the point of that one was).
Basically, this anime rocks and you should watch it. It has a startling level of depth and complexity that is uncommon in anime, especially modern anime. The only thing to really look out for is the decidedly non-Eastern style, but I seriously doubt that could ever be a problem. This show is too damn good to dislike for a dumb reason like that. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
The one thing I would fault Bamboo Blade’s visual department on is how they avoided animating the actual kendo scenes. Although the anime is about kendo, they usually make the matches very short, and with as little actual animation as they can. In some cases, they actually skipped the matches altogether, preferring, I suppose, to not waste time animating them. Near the end of the show this trend starts to cease, as more matches are properly animated (and damn did they look good), but for most of the show, it’s a rather annoying problem.
As weird as it may sound, I actually found a surprisingly strong similarity to K-On! for the first three-fourths of the anime. The main, obvious comparison is the moe, which both shows have in SPADES. However, whereas K-On! has girls who are extremely moe for the sake of moe, Bamboo Blade does a slightly different thing by actually designing properly interesting characters which also somehow have tons of moe as well. It’s weird, saying that the girls are both moe and strong literary characters, but it’s true. All five of the main girls are very deep, layered people with backstories, diverse character traits, and recognizable habits that make them feel pretty real. It’s extremely impressive when considering how lovable they are on top of that.
The other comparison I found was the storytelling style, which, for the majority of the show, is reminiscent of K-On!. Both shows have some kind of common factor that the story centers on – kendo in Bamboo Blade, music in K-On! – but the story doesn’t focus on that. Rather, it’s treated as a sort of medium through which stories about the characters are told instead. In both cases, it’s relaxing and fun to watch, with very little stress, which is something that I really enjoy. Around episode 23 or 24 is when Bamboo Blade turns away from that relaxed storytelling and introduces some actual drama. In those last few episodes, there was plenty angst and tension to be had, and then a very good ending that I really enjoyed. I won’t go into details, but just know that it won’t stay as laidback as the first 20+ episodes would have you believe.
In summary, Bamboo Blade was a really good anime that was lots of fun to watch. If you’re watching the show for moe, you’ll definitely like it. If you’re watching it for the sports focus, I wouldn’t be so sure. It may be “about” kendo, but in the end, it’s characters first; kendo second. read more