25 of 25 episodes seen
From the stunning animation and graphics and the fast-paced and polished plot, this anime is everything that I have been missing since Cowboy Bebop. I love how the series seems episodic at first glance, but eventually everything falls into place so smoothly and perfectly with one barely noticing. Very few details that were given attention were insignificant, showing how much attention was given to the story.
More than the story, however, I fell in love with this anime because of the characters. And what brilliantly imagined and lifelike characters they are. Without going into extended, horribly long-winded exposition, we get to see deep into every character's essence -- even the ones in secondary roles! Everyone is so consistent and well-defined, they just seem incredibly real and relatable. I like that 1/2 of the titular pair was an older guy, not quite the epitome of cool, silly, middle-aged, and with a child -- a perfect foil to Barnaby, who was basically Batman. I also expected the heroes to have more of an active rivalry going on and was pleasantly surprised to find that while they did like getting points, it was a priority below saving people and working as a team.
My attachment to these awesome characters is actually the reason why I couldn't stop watching -- I just had to find out how they'd get out of their last predicament every time. Even though I had been accidentally spoiled about certain events (including the ending), I still felt anxious and excited at all the appropriate times BECAUSE I empathized with the characters so much.
In terms of sound, the anime has lovely music and sound effects. Everything is timed perfectly, and the score is just amazing, always enhancing the overall atmosphere.
I'm not sure I can ever adequately rave about this anime -- I'm trying way too hard to be coherent right now when all I want to do is squee and flail and sob over Tiger and Bunny and Blue Rose and EVERYBODY. Especially Sky High. Boy, do I love Sky High's character. This series is funny, heartwarming, maybe not particularly insightful, but still with a kind of depth by way of its utter humanity. Which is kind of funny, being a series about superhumans.
All in all, worth watching. Again and again. read more
24 of 24 episodes seen
Putting aside the immediately obvious fact that the animation for this series is superb and all opening and ending songs are awesome, what's left for me to complain about is the pacing, the plot, and the nearly nonexistent character development. Oh, and the mind-numbingly boring way in which the dialogue is remarkably unsubtle, anvilicious, and pretentious.
I know this is based on a series of light novels and that there's also a manga version. But while I know a bit about both, I haven't read enough of either, and this is an anime review anyway, so I'm glad I haven't yet so I can focus on the anime. I actually wonder if I may be too old for this anime, because it left me completely unimpressed, didn't change my point of view in anyway, and I learned nothing and felt nothing while I watched it. It felt like the entire thing was made by a bunch of disaffected college students that have nothing better to do with their spare time than angst about how the world is so sad and boring. And while this seems perhaps an unfair attack on the team that made the anime and for all I know they're completely the opposite, it's how the series came off as.
For all the darkness or apparent maturity of the themes, the show comes off as incredibly naive. The characters spend way too long and talk too much in an effort to explain themselves and their actions. There's too much talking! Even when what they're saying is plainly obvious or when they could have stopped after one sentence and it's especially annoying when you realize that their justifications are pretty much senseless or stupid after the nth time they've explained it. I honestly blocked out whole chunks of dialogue from boredom. Then I went back to see if I missed anything by doing so. I didn't.
I don't think the series is as meaningful as it thinks it is, and I wasn't moved by most of the characters. The only ones I really cared about by the end of it all was Kida Masaomi and Celty, the headless biker. (And Heiwajima Shizuo who is crazy awesome. I like Orihara Izaya and he's one of my favorite characters, but I don't really care or am concerned about the guy because he should honestly die in a fire.) Speaking of which, what really bothered me was how so many of the characters escaped karma -- except Kida Masaomi, who the show seemed determined to break because that's his designated role. The show also tries to present Mikado Ryuugamine as somewhat of a hero, which I refuse to accept. And to bring up the manga and novels, I think the anime tries much harder than those two make him likeable or acceptable (and overall NICER) to count as one and it's obvious. I'm sorry, but no. Better to have left him a bit of a magnificent bastard than to do so. By extension, the Dollars are supposed to be the good gang, which is laughable, since while they do some good in the anime, they're not much different from the bad gangs -- they're a bunch of easily manipulated cowardly sheep who can't even do good on their own (with the exception of a few, but they're in the extended hero's group so...).
What really bothers me about the Dollars is, had their leader been actually smarter and less interested in his own entertainment, they could have PUT AWAY SOMEONE THAT'S DONE SOMETHING CLEARLY WRONG. In the first half, the major conflict involved a shady pharmaceutical company responsible for a string of kidnappings and that was covering up an assault. Granted, the assaulted girl was cray cray and a stalker, and she didn't press charges because she's madly in love with the guy that nearly killed her and they wound up together thanks to the said pharmaceutical company, but really? REALLY? The guy that ALMOST CRACKED HER HEAD OPEN escaped punishment and is later on referred to as "he's weird, but kind of cool"? By the show's protagonist? WHAT?! And what did the leader of the Dollars choose to do about this? MESS WITH THE MIND OF THE PERSON BEHIND ALL OF IT. Yeah, that's all. And the result? Was not so awful that by the next episode she's seen working for the information broker that orchestrated it all while still full of haughty arrogance. And speaking of the information broker, I don't know if he really is just that awesome or the other characters are just so stupid or weak that he's pretty much untouchable despite being so plainly evil.
The only thing that could have possibly redeemed this whole show was the friendship between the three main characters (Anri, Mikado, and Kida). But as a friendship, it just fails. There are countless other anime and manga that have portrayed friendship in an amazingly poignant way. This anime had that chance but it just fell so miserably short.
The light novels and the manga version of this show goes farther from what I've seen and heard about. If there's a second season, my point of view might change. Who knows? As it stands, it's pointless, other than being pretty to look at. Much of the show seems focused on being cool for the sake of being cool and that's it. read more
Although the character art is simple, I love it <i>because</i> it is simple and clean. The backgrounds, environment, and special effects are a different thing entirely. They are rendered in such gloriously realistic detail. The landscapes, the classrooms, the streets -- I have never seen such detail in an animated film. It makes things like Beowulf and Final Fantasy: Advent Children look really silly.
The movie also has such beautiful sound. The effects are perfect and clear. This is topped off by one of the most beautiful soundtrack and score I've ever heard outside of...well, nothing! The music is so appropriately poignant at times that I almost cried from it, fifteen minutes into the movie. I actually knew, glowing reviews aside, fifteen minutes in, that it was going to be a wonderful film. I mean, if the music can make goosebumps rise on my arms, then it can probably save even a disaster of a film -- which this is certainly not. The ending theme is the most appropriate song ever written for any anime. Ever. Just listening to it makes me go "awwwww" and I really want to find it. I'm making it my mission. It's like a direct line to Makoto's head at the end, and made me cry all over again. I'm really not normally a sap, but I'm very sensitive to music, and this movie's music is just so awesome. Not in a grandiose and sweeping sense, but in a gentler, more subtle way. (In fact, subtle describes this whole movie: subtle but effective.)
The characters are also very well-written, complemented by good voice actors. Chiaki's has a tendency to mumble so much, I can barely understand him sometimes, but it actually fits his character well. They're quite convincing as high-schoolers, though, and I love how they were all created so realistically, without following any staple formulae or types. They're all just...normal, even though two of them can do very abnormal things.
Though the plot itself is very simple, the way the characters develop throughout the seemingly minor conflicts (and that big, heart-pounding one toward the end) gives the story incredible depth. And when it reached the ending, I didn't want it to end but, at the same time, I felt the ending was perfect. I'm a sucker for this type of ending: very, very hanging. Like most of the novels and movies and anime I like, the movie ends just when another story is about to start -- the rest of Konno Makoto's life. I mean, the movie is set within two or three days, I think, though with the time leaps it may feel like it takes place for a much longer period of time. Those days are when Makoto is merely poised at the threshhold: summer is drawing near, school is almost out, and they have to decide on their majors. Yet what happens in that short time is so profound that I'm sure it will affect the rest of her life.
Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo also drives home a message. The line "time waits for no one" is mentioned several times during the course of the film, and by the end it makes sense why the writer chose that line. That there is no time like the present seems like such a cliche, but when we can't leap through time and change events to suit us, the present is all the time we have. We have to cherish each day as it comes and each person as they are, for how do we know that by tomorrow they won't be gone? read more
189 of 197 chapters read
Strange how action-packed manga rarely draw me in, but a manga about a board game (for crying out loud, a BOARD GAME!) can drive me nuts and leave me crying over cliffhangers. Each chapter is more fascinating than the last and if you find yourself saying "I'll stop reading after this chapter...No, after the next one...Damn it's a cliffhanger, I have to read the next volume...When it gets dark, I'll stop...I'll turn on the lights..." You probably won't rest until you've pretty much read all the volumes available to you.
Aside from the engaging story, the art by Obata Takeshi is also something to love. The art is simple, yet the crispness of the images lends a freshness. The inks are bold and striking - no swishy strands, frail noses, and feathers and cherry blossoms here. Everything is pretty much realistic. The details right down to the shoes are awesome. Seriously, I love Hikaru's outfits. He's like a Nike posterboy or something. Also, if you read the manga from volume 1 all the way to 20 in one go (again, no pun intended) you will notice something rather surprising. Hikaru grows up right before your very eyes. Literally. I have seen manga in which the storyline spans at least two years and yet the characters never change. But here, Hikaru grows taller, loses some of the baby fat, and Akari fills out. This attention to detail is really very interesting. About the only thing that remains the same on Shindou-kun is his hair - though it's shorter in the back in the later volumes. The art style also grows cleaner and the inking smoother as the series goes along, which shows that Hikaru isn't the only one whose style is growing and changing. Obata Takeshi's art, by the end of volume 23, is noticeably similar to his incredible work in Death Note and is a far cry from HikaGo's first volume.
However, the manga may not be for everyone. I admit that people who do not like wordy manga or manga with no action, magic or romance will probably not enjoy this very much. Still, if you want substance and realistic inner struggles without the excessive angst and hyperactive SD-ness (although there are still some of those), this is a good manga to read. It can appeal to anybody with even the tiniest bit of ambition, as that is ultimately what the story is about. Those who like comedy can enjoy this, too, as it doesn't take itself too seriously. It would be better if you have some small working knowledge of Go, so you might want to check the game out and play sometimes (though playing is likely to drive you even more nuts). Hopefully, Hikaru no Go will achieve one of its obvious goals - to reach out and make the youth (or anyone, really) interested in this difficult yet highly satisfying strategy game. read more
Years later, they find themselves leading ordinary, unglamorous lives, their dreams of greatness long-buried under the dust of adult pragmatism. But then strange deaths caused by a mysterious virus begin occurring, and murders and disappearances occur one after another. Then one of their number becomes one of the dead, and all the clues point Kenji to a mysterious man who calls himself "Tomodachi (Friend)," who uses as his sign a symbol known only to Kenji's circle of friends.
As the scale of damage and the number of deaths rapidly increase, Kenji realizes that all the terrors are occurring as he had once set down on paper, in a story he and his friends had written, and buried in the time capsule they had sworn over.
20th Century Boys is difficult for me to summarize without giving too much away, but even if I were to divulge half of its secrets, we would still not be anywhere near solving the mystery of "Friend" and of his motives.
At first glance, 20thCB seems to be a crude shounen manga that would probably not appeal to everyone, judging by the artwork alone. But it is not. True, there are no pretty boys or girls to easily fangirl (or boy) over in this series, but this kind of story does not need exaggerated, surreal beauty in its artwork to survive. This truly is a graphic novel, where the plot moves with speed, certainty, and intelligence rather than rely on hundreds of feathers and cherry blossoms to depict angst and drama. The art is actually pretty polished as well, the inking clean and deliberate, and the panels arranged simply but effectively. Like movies these days, many manga artists tend to rely on "special effects" or glamorous art rather than plot to attract readers, but 20thCB has enough plot that any eye candy would just be a bonus.
Character development in 20thCB is also something I liked. Kenji grows and changes as the series progresses, and so do the other characters. The dynamics between the friends are believable, and their heroism so simple and understated.
I can't really find much to say about this manga, simply because it's so good and interesting and I probably wouldn't be able to do it much justice. But if you're looking for a fast-paced intelligent plot, masterfully created characters, and a mystery that can have you at the edge of your seat, then give this series a chance. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
Jin wanders in after the lordling threatens Mugen with his father's elite guard, unaware that Jin has already taught them all a lesson. Mugen mistakes Jin for the "really strong" warriors but is quickly corrected. It makes no difference because Jin is now the strongest opponent available. To Fuu's chagrin, the pair of them immediately decide to duke it out in her teashop. The fight, however, ends abruptly when the man whose arm Mugen has just chopped off sets the place on fire.
That is how the story starts, and how three strange, wildly different people get together. Due to a strange series of events, Fuu has contracted both Mugen and Jin tol help her find the mysterious "samurai who smells of sunflowers". But how long can a young girl keep a pair of battle-crazy swordsmen under control, and how can they find a samurai by his scent alone (especially when Mugen doesn't even know what a sunlower is)?
Samurai Champloo is Shinichiro Watanabe's next great animated venture that came right on the heels of Cowboy Bebop. It's quite funny and insane and just as initially apparently plotless as Bebop but once again proves to be a masterpiece in character studies. Unlike Bebop (which I can't help comparing Champloo to), there isn't much of an overarching plot. Though Fuu's quest to find the mysterious sunflower samurai is the main plot point, it isn't as heavy or deep or as present as the Spike/Vicious conflict throughout Bebop. Most of the time, it's just Jin, Mugen, and Fuu wandering across Japan, getting into trouble, starving, almost dying, and fighting with random people for no true purpose. It is occasionally dramatic, sometimes gory, and frequently violent, but it is never too heavy. It's more entertainment than actual story, although there are several stories and themes that intertwine.
The art is breathtaking, of course. The landscapes and backgrounds are so amazingly beautiful and complete while animation is dazzlingly fluid. The fight scenes are absolutely excellent and exciting. The music appears inappropriate in theory but sounds perfect in actuality. Hip-hop and lounge music in a samurai anime? Was the director on crack? Not really. Just brilliant. With artists such as Tsutchie and NUJABES on board, the soundtrack is unexpectedly fitting and over-all quite good.
My final verdict is: it's a good and entertaining anime but lacks the depth that made Cowboy Bebop a masterpiece. Still, I wouldn't pass Champloo up. The characters and setting are just too awesome and realistically done. However, some aspects of the stories and humor may be hard to grasp, as they are much too deeply rooted in Japanese history to easily translate or understand. And if you're one of those people who think that, after seeing one samurai anime, you've seen them all - trust me. You haven't. Samurai Champloo has it faults, certainly, but it is most definitely unique. read more