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25 of 25 episodes seen
The good: equally detailed characters, stunning aerial animation sequences, great production value
The bad: imbalanced pacing leads to brain-dead story; lack of content given its 25-episode run
It seems Japanese animation has its first new foreign ambassador since Naruto: Shingeki no Kyojin. Browsing through my Facebook I see friends who have never watched anime before asking others, "Have you seen Shingeki no Kyojin?" Or better yet they would follow up with, "What other anime should I watch?" Yes, Shingeki no Kyojin has done it. It has expanded beyond the niche anime community in the western world and captured the attention of young adults. Different from the shounen predecessors before it, Shingeki no Kyojin offers a sample to the West of the grimmer side of anime. For those of us here, it beckons a question: is Shingeki no Kyojin a satisfying entree for first-timers and regulars alike, or is it simply an appealing appetizer that is greeted with a hunger-derived passion, which once subsided, no longer tastes as appetizing?
Shingeki no Kyojin's story starts at what seems to be humanity's final years. After the unwelcome intrusion of giant man-eating guests (Titans/Kyojin), the remaining couple thousand of humans reside in a central location enclosed by a series of three circular walls. Decades have gone by with no problems, and many humans spend their days content. Those that are not satisfied living their years as sheep, tend to join the survey corps of the military - whose duty is to reclaim land in the name of humanity. If you've seen Sword Art Online, it's the same situation: either stay put and accept your fate, or venture out into a losing battle and die with your dignity. That is the gist of Shingeki no Kyojin's setting, though it should be said that the Titans are not the only enemy to humanity. Just as with any other period in history, the number one enemy to humans are humans themselves. The inner ring of nobility is corrupted with greed, stirring trust issues between the government, the military, and the people.
The main character, Eren Yeager, has always detested how weak humanity has become. He strives to join the survey corps so he can see the outside world and fight to reclaim humanity's dignity. The offensive survey unit has thus far fought nothing but losing battles with massive casualties. It doesn't help that the only intel humanity has on Titans is that the backside of a Titan's neck is it's only weakness. Will Yeager's conviction be enough to sway the tides of battle?
The details put into each character, and the interaction between these characters, is the strongest attribute of Shingeki no Kyojin. If a face is given a name, it is backed with a fair amount of background information and personality to brighten it up. Time is taken to flesh out side characters enough for you to care about them, even if they never actually do anything significant. This forte of SnK would have done wonders if paired with a good sense of mystery and suspense. Sadly, that's where the show begins to fall short.
Several later episodes are centered around this one mystery about an individual's true identity, which builds up to a climax with a "shocking" plot twist. Or, that's what the writer/director was hoping for at least. Anyone who is paying a child's level of attention to the show easily could have drawn such conclusions on their own. It's a shame since time was given to develop side characters. If the story was not so obvious, discussions in-between episodes would have been more entertaining as viewers tried to connect dots and form theories.
This issue is rooted in a larger problem with the pacing. Try to recall what it was like when you first drank alcohol and how quick it was for you to feel the effects. Now compare it to your most recent drinking session where you probably got full before getting anywhere past tipsy. What if your tolerance levels jumped straight from your first session to your most recent one - would suck right? This is my feeling about the pacing in SnK. It kicks off and builds up so much intense adrenaline so quickly, but then suddenly flat lines. Several episodes (or drinking sessions) later, you're offered another enticing serving. Sadly, your body no longer gives a shit despite all the flashing lights and pumping music.
Many fans argue that the discrepancy in pacing is due to the need to develop some story. This defense does not really fit with SnK though, since battle scenes have shown to be packed with much more story development than the cease-fire periods in between which merely trudge along. By the end of the show, none of the important questions are even answered. What a generous reward for sitting through a 25 episode series that could have been condensed into a 2 hour movie.
Let's get back to what the show does well. The aerial animation sequences where soldiers are zip-lining at fast speeds, dodging buildings and Titans, and then going in for the kill are exhilarating. The soundtrack complements these scenes nicely, with its booming orchestrated jams and "oooh AHHH"'ing vocals. The sound effects emitted by the Titans, such as their steaming bodies, bone gnashing, and daunting footsteps, are well recorded. The production value is definitely high across all fronts making the action scenes the best I've seen all year.
There is a lot of potential for SnK to be just as amazing as its action scenes, especially since it has a great cast of characters. The heart of any anime though is the story, and the various limbs paired with that heart are the characters. Shingeki no Kyojin's heart succeeds in pumping blood out to all those limbs, but severs its veins barring any characters to contribute its role in the system. The disruptive pacing and lack of content in SnK also leaves a lot left desired. read more
13 of 13 episodes seen
Kou Ichinomiya was raised by his stern father to be the perfect businessman. At the young age of 22, he already leads his own company and has mass amounts of wealth. He obsessively follows his family's motto, which is written across his tie, of never being indebted to anyone for even the smallest of deeds. Unfortunately, one person's helpful deed changes Ichinomiya's daily life completely. After getting his pants stolen on a bridge, a blonde haired girl named Nino returns it to him; however, because of his family's motto, Ichinomiya insists upon some form of repayment - a new house, a million yen, a new car, anything. Nino requests for the young prodigee to be her lover. And so begins the crazy story that is Arakawa Under the Bridge. Kou moves into a new place under the bridge, where he is forced to communicate with the strange residents.
The first he comes into contact with is of course the blonde-haired Nino. Her strangeness stems from her belief that she is a Venusian - and thus, doesn't understand certain human acts. The two of them have a strange relationship as lovers due to this lack of understanding. Next is the village chief, a man dressed in a kappa outfit who thinks himself a real kappa. The village chief is in charge of giving the residents their names, and as a twisted joke, he gives the name "Recruit" to Ichinomiya. There is also Hoshi, a man who wears a star-shaped mask and plays a guitar... badly.
Among the most interesting characters of the crew, are Sister and Maria. Sister is a nun, a male nun... from England... who was a mercenary that fought in wars. He runs the village's "Church" where he hands out cookies while blasting his gun that he always keeps tucked under his nun uniform. Maria is a seemingly sweet lady who runs the village's farm. Her true nature is anything but sweet though, as she says the harshest things imaginable to the other villagers making them feel lower than dirt. Basically, her personality gives off the impression that she thinks the lives of others are worth less than the grass they stand on, and that they are not worthy of taking in the oxygen around her.
Other characters include P-Ko, Stella, the Brothers, and Shirai. P-ko is a clumsy red haired girl who has a fascination with vegetables. Stella is an orphaned kid who Sister took care of back in England where he also taught her how to wrestle, making Stella a little girl to avoid. The Tetsujin brothers are apparently on the run from men from the "laboratory". They hide their faces with metal cans to conceal their identities and/or super powers.
The story follows Recruit (Ichinomiya) as he learns how to deal with the unusual residents under the bridge. It is through these characters that Arakawa is given life; however, there isn't much else to the story since it is a comedy. The art direction isn't far off from other SHAFT titles, but don't expect anything as visually appealing as the vibrant eye-candy of Bakemonogatari. The music is also good; nothing really special though.
Arakawa Under the Bridge shows that Akiyuki Shinbou and SHAFT continue to lead the anime industry in creating dark comedies as well as unique casts of characters. The humor is entertaining and certainly unique, just as was Bakemonogatari for those familiar. Unlike Bakemonogatari though, Arakawa focuses a lot more on the comedy that it doesn't create a strong lasting impression. It was a very enjoyable watch, but it is hard to give the show high praises because it did not leave this heavy impact. The characters were superb, the animation and music decent, the comedy golden, but something was missing that could have made this show much, much stronger. The thing is, the staff probably wasn't aiming for something strong - it is a comedy after all - and it is in that section that Arakawa shines. I look forward to season two.
12 of 12 episodes seen
Most crucial element to a harem in my opinion is the characters so lets start with that. The male lead is Arima Teppei, a solid high school student with Japanese sword fighting skills. In many harems, the male lead is just your "ordinary, plain guy" who wouldn't really hold much ground on their own without a girl by their side - but Arima has a personality of his own; another reason why Princess Lover is a step above the rest. Arima isn't merely a "toy" for the girls of the school, he is his own man - he does what he wants - like a boss.
Nobody cares about the guy though, no girls watch harems (:p). There are four main female characters: Charlotte Hazelrink, Yuu Fujikura, Seika Houjouin, and Sylvia van Hossen. They're all fairly varied from one another, so you'll find one or two you like and others you'd probably despise. One thing that deterred me from enjoying this show more was that the majority of the screentime was devoted to Charlotte - who I disliked the most - while my favorite character, Seika, got the least screentime. Overshadowing was a common issue with Princess Lover though, granted its expected given its 12 episode length. Secondary characters, such as the other three students with actual names, were not given a role to play at all other than a line here or there which is a shame because they seemed interesting enough to be a part of the main cast.
The biggest flaw to this show is probably expected given its genre, but even with me being lenient and giving the story a blind eye - there's still no excuse for how horrible the "story" in this show went. It was nice that a harem would include an actual story, but... wow, it was just so horrible. The motivation behind the antagonists, the way it all unfolds, the fate of the villains, everything was just completely farfetched. Luckily, the story doesn't kick in until the last third of the show.
The visuals were very impressive in the first episode, and dropped to a decent quality from there on out. A defect in regards to animation though is that everything was overly censored with black clouds. And by overly censored, I mean that there were times when censors meant for the waist area spread down to just above the knees - not that I really care to see the goods *cough* but it just is distracting to see a huge black cloud covering up a good portion of the screen.
The sound outside of the opening/ending was mediocre, and there was one instance where the song choice for a scene was completely off - like hearing a cutesy slow-paced JPop song playing during a climactic gun battle. The opening song ("Princess Primp!" by Miyuki Hashimoto) is decent, but the ending song is where its at ("S.S.D" by yozuca).
Overall, Princess Lover was good enough to keep this non-harem viewer entertained during its short run - something no other harem has done for me. Princess Lover in my opinion is better than other harems in certain regards such as its strong lead male character and its decreased focus on fan-service, but the downside to that is the increased focus on storyline which was simply horrendous. If the show followed Seika to the level it followed Charlotte, I could see myself enjoying it more - Charlotte was just too annoying. So in conclusion, if you're curious about harems but don't want to be drowning in a pool of fan-service, give Princess Lover a shot. Just be sure you don't have high expectations for a well thought-out storyline. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
I finished this 26 episode series in three days, something I hardly ever do. It was addicting and unexpectedly solid across all categories. The story kicks off a decade after the end of the WORM attacks. Three young girls are called to the Oppama base, where they will serve as test pilots for a new type of mecha unit called Sonic Divers. The three are: Eika Ichijo, Otoha Sakurano, and Karen Sonomiya. Ichijo is a tsundere character with a military background, who serves as the leader of the team. Sakurano and Sonomiya didn't have any experience when they were called, but both found reason to accept the duty. Sakurano had a desire to fly the skies in place of her lost brother, and Sonomiya had a strong sense of justice. They were told their duty will be to simply serve as test pilots, but that was a lie told in order to get the three ready for a second coming of WORMs (due to their DNA structure, these three have high compatibilities with the mecha units - that's why they were chosen. This will make more sense after you watch). The re-assignment from test pilots to active military units startles Sakurano at first, but the three accept their new mission in the end. From there, they fight WORMs as they make their way to its central nest in the middle of the ocean.
The story is much more solid than I could ever imagine from a loli show called "Sky Girls". Transitions between episodes and battles are clean and done with hardly any downtime (there are 2-3 enjoyable filler episodes though), so there is hardly a dull moment. Plenty of twists are thrown in as well, mostly surrounding the WORMs: their existence, origination, motives, and weaknesses. The WORMs are ginormous beings that take the shape of whatever organism they see first. Since most WORMs are born in the ocean, they generally take the shape of marine animals, but some more unique WORMs emerge - such as a few that take the shape of humans. It's sort of like Shadow of the Collossus if you've played that.
The Sonic Diver mechas mimic the movements of their pilots. They have different weapons equipped ranging from firearms, lasers, and unique to Sakurano - a sword. To defeat the enemy, the Sky Girls use a tactic they call "Delta Lock". This move creates a spherical barrier that traps in the enemy allowing them to unleash an all out attack at once. Later on in the show, this move becomes "Quadra Lock" after a fourth member joins the team.
That's right, the cast isn't limited to three lolis. As with any mecha, the cast of Sky Girls is grand. There are the mechanics, the pilots, the commanding officers, and of course - a chef to feed em' all. A fourth Sky Girl pilot joins the cast about halfway through, and a fifth towards the end. Another three-person squadron makes appearances here and there, flying in anti-WORM units called "Vic Vipers". The supporting cast of officers and mechanics has a large amount of screen time, and an equal amount of effort is put behind each. Together, they all contribute to a lively cast of characters.
MELL, the singer behind Black Lagoon's opening, sings an epic theme song for Sky Girls. Both endings, sadly, were not as impressive. The soundtrack has some really awesome tunes though, although there wasn't a lot of variation. My favorite would be the piano track called, "Fall in Love". Animation was the weakest category of Sky Girls in my opinion. It wasn't bad, there weren't any disfigurations or anything of that sort, it just wasn't all that sharp and the action sequences were sort of faded. It might have been the files I was watching were of low quality, but I'm guessing that's probably not the case.
Overall, Sky Girls was worth the journey. The mecha fights may not be on par with the epicness of Gundam, nor were the visuals as sharp as mechas generally are, but it still kept me entertained with its cute cast of pilots and solid storyline. Seeing the team flying around fighting WORMs reminded me a lot of Star Fox 64, which brought a smile to my face. I'd recommend this show to everyone, but obviously the character design would be hard to get by for a lot of people and I understand. But hey- give it a shot. I did, and I was not disappointed. read more
13 of 13 episodes seen
To clarify what I mean here: watching Koi Kaze felt like watching a show about homosexuals in the 80s or early 90s. Watching a show about homosexual relations today though, would hardly phase any of us, since it has become commonplace in anime. On the other hand, I've never seen a show about incest - nor would I have ever considered watching one in the past. It would be interesting though (and I doubt it myself, but it's possible), if incest became more socially acceptable in time, just as gay relationships. I'm no expert on this subject, and I am aware that American and Japanese stances and commonality of both gay/incest relationships differ - so please do not call me out on some illogical point I may have suggested here. I'm just trying to give an example of how Koi Kaze's premise in itself, is something that would make viewing the series worthwhile in that it offers something to consider/theorize.
Anyways, moving away from the concept and towards the execution, Koi Kaze's story was slow-paced and mellower than what I'm used to in dramas. While this makes it not as emotionally-stirring as shows such as Clannad, it offers a realistic portrayal of relations much like Makoto Shinkai's works. The story covers the hardship that Koushirou has in accepting his feelings for his younger sister, Nanoka, in face of society. Nanoka too has feelings for her older brother, although she is able to be more true to herself in the end. The show doesn't involve the two being a "couple", but rather a pair of siblings on the outside who have deeper feelings for each other on the inside and their struggle to accept it.
The animation was certainly cheap and lacked in creative design, but it actually didn't detract from my appreciation of the overall show. When characters had their mouths open, the inside would just be solid white. Backgrounds were often times designed in a similar sense, with fading to white or black after a certain distance. Characters and objects seemed flat and dull; however, one could make the argument that this all fits with the overall mellow feel of the show, and I'd agree. The soundtrack also contributes to this "feel" with its somber and simplistic piano tunes.
Overall, Koi Kaze was a unique watch. It did not match the intensity that most of us are used to seeing in modern day dramas, which can make it boring at times. However, I was able to hold an interest due mostly in part because of the premise. If you've seen anime covering the subject of incest before, I'm not sure if Koi Kaze has something new to offer for you. But if you have not, or if you are able to appreciate more slow-paced dramas, Koi Kaze is a show you should consider adding to your list. read more