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64 of 64 episodes seen
Shaman King was adapted from the manga of the same title by Hiroyuki Takei, which was serialized in Weekly Jump. Here in North America, it was serialized by the monthly Shonen Jump magazine and was dubbed by the infamous 4kids as a Saturday morning cartoon. That said, the English and Japanese versions of the anime have a ton of differences. Most notably 4kids dumming down the content, editing out blood, drugs and too much clevage, renaming many cast members ect. For example Manta becomes Morty, Hao becomes Zeke, Horohoro becomes Tray...the list goes on. As well, Faust is no longer a morphine addict and his IV drip is editted out, leading to unexplained outbursts and a strange resiliance to pain that is never explained. Also, no smoking, it's all toothpicks and lollypops. Not to mention editing out posible racial insensitivities like Chocolove or Jockolove as he became known in English.
What's more, the Japanese anime ended long before the manga did. This was in part due to a four year hiatus taken by Takei between 2004 and 2009. In 2004, the series was 'finished' at 32 volumes and was left unresolved until Kanzenban, which reprinted all previous volumes and concluded the series in additional chapters. With that said, the ending to Shaman King comes abruptly and leaves a fair amount of things unresolved.
On to the plot!: Yoh Asakura is a Shaman, a human capable of communication with spirits, as well as fighting with them. He is the heir of the Asakura family, and participating in a world wide tournament held every 500 years to become the Shaman King. Along with a ragtag group of shamans from all over the world, his bookworm best friend Manta and his fiance with a lethal left hook Anna, Yoh sets out on his journey to become stronger to defeat Hao and ultimately become Shaman King. In other words, pretty much what one would expect from a shonen title. Lots of fighting, tournaments, and humour. The story mostly revolves around Yoh and his friends fighting stronger opponents and trying to become stronger themselves through various types of training and techniques, as well as learning cool new signature moves with really long names. The plot really isn't original and can be found in Shonen series from Yu Yu Hakushou to Dragon Ball, but it's the characters that really carry the series.
The characters are a band of misfits with odd personalities that play off each other to provide most of the series' humour. Yoh is a self proclaimed slacker and a contender for the king of procrastinators. He wants to win the tournament so he can live a free and easy lifestyle and lives by the motto that somehow things will always work out. This is contrasted by almost every other character who is high strung and determined to make Yoh get off his ass and fight...or at least show a little enthusiasm, most notably being Manta and Yoh's rival Ren. The only character successful in making Yoh train is his fiance Anna, who just might turn him into a spirit himself if Yoh does nor obey her every whim. Yoh's spirit ally, a samurai named Amidamaru is Yoh's partner in fights, but is still somehow no match for Anna. Other characters include Horohoro, an Ainu shaman who uses a korropukur and wields a snowboard in battle, the English dowser Lyserg Diethel who fights with a fairy and a pendent, Johannes Faust VIII and his dead wife Eliza, Ryu a former yakuza gangster and the deceased bandit Tokagero, a tortured and driven Chinese shaman named Ren and his partner Bason, and Chocolove McDonnell from America who's ally is Mic the Jaguar (I see what you did there Takei...)
The humour between the characters mostly comes from the same principle of putting a bunch of bugs in a jar, shaking it, and seeing what happens next. It's a mix of a bunch of characters who are not quite sane, nothing alike, and seeing how they interact in various circumstances. The result is usually pretty funny to watch, and even more amusing when juxtaposed against enemies who are all very organized and coordinated. In the end though, the cast is very diverse, each with their own personality and reasons for entering the tournament. Amazingly the majority of the main cast is given a lot of depth, back story and development, which is something fairly unusual for shonen titles with large casts.
With a diverse cast though comes one aspect of Shaman King that I really enjoyed. The cast comes from all over the world and uses spirits from various mythologies and legends. For example, Faust's character comes straight from the Faust legend, Horohoro uses Ainu spirits, the team from Egypt uses Egyptian spirits ect. Takei did put a decent amount of research into his manga. There are parts that seem a little odd to me as a westerner, particularly where angels and the theological implications are concerned, but the show generally comes off as well researched.
Takei was an apprentice of Nobuhiro Watsuki, author of Rurouni Kenshin, so there are some similarities between the art styles. Not many though, as Takei's art is very distinct, but there is still a noticable influence from Watsuki. It does appear to be a bit blocky, especially compared with work Takei has done on Ultimo and later volumes of Shaman King, but it still looks alright. The backgrounds can be quite detailed and fun, and the sight gags are pretty funny. The animation itself though is fairly standard, with nothing really mind blowing or groundbreaking. My one slight irritation with the Japanese version is that there are quite a few times where the character's mouths will start moving before their seiyus start speaking. Not just once or twice, but often enough that it is very noticable. And yes, I'm sure it's not just something wrong with streaming/downloading/whatever. So, oddly enough, the butchered 4kids version actually gets the animation and the character's voices to fit better.
As for the sound itself, again, I am a little biased since these were the first Japanese songs I ever heard or learned. To be honest, the openings Oversoul and Northern Lights are fast paced and exciting, and they do suit the anime, but as standalone songs they aren't as strong as the ending themes. Megumi Hayashibara (Anna's and Opacho's VA) seems more in her element with Trust You and Omokage, and the songs themselves are better outside the context of the show. The background sounds and music are fair; being nothing that would make you want to buy the soundtrack, but nothing too distracting. The English and Japanese versions do have different music tracks in a number of parts, but especially the background songs sung by Yuko Sato (Yoh's VA). To be completely honest, you're not missing much. Sato's voice is not bad, she even did the dub for the Japanese version of The Wiz in the role of Dorothy, but the songs in Shaman King aren't great. They're just typical, run of the mill character songs. As for the voices themselves, the English cast certainly sounds like they're having fun but they don't seem to take the show seriously at all. So any serious moments seem a bit awkward when contrasted with English VAs making funny voices, and they seem almost afraid to go all out and show real emotion. The Japanese dub on the otherhand is much more passionate, with what feels like raw emotion bursting through every scream and whisper.
All in all, if you like shonen, you'll like this. If you like character based humour, you'll like this. If you actually like 4kids dubs, this is probably one of the better ones. If you like shows that deal with the supernatural and different cultures, than you might get a kick out of this. Amidst all the other anime out there though, it's typical shonen, and while enjoyable it's no Baccano or Higashi no Eden. Because of various complications only five DVD collections were released State -side by Funimation and they are extremely difficult to find. However, if you can find Shaman King online, I'd say it's worth watching. read more
13 of 13 episodes seen
So we get Zero no Tsukaima. the story of a noble mage from a magical realm and her familiar, a human from our world. Sounds like a good mash-up like Inuyasha, Shakugan no Shana, or any of the many magical girlfriend animes out there. The problem is, this series, though it combines familiar elements to make something new, it does not seem to work well. While I loved Baka to Test for combining slice of life high school drama with monster training, this simply did not do it for me. To be honest, Zero came off as cut and pasted together, with nothing really original to offer.
Plot: Louise is a mage in training in her second year who must summon a familiar as part of her curriculim/rite of passage. In what seems to be a freak accident, Louise summons a normal boy from our world in moddern Japan. Hilarity ensues?
Most of the plot revolves around Louise and the boy, Saito's relationship. Saito struggles with wanting to go home, Louise struggles to prove herself a strong and capable mage, and the two go on various missions together. Oh, yeah, and boobs. It seems at every twist and turn there is some woman with a large chest who is inexplicably attracted to Saito. Misunderstandings ensue and Louise whips Saito with a riding crop in an attempt at slapstick comedy. Besides, we've seen this in almost every other romcom harem comedy. Boy meets girl, boy sees other girl in suggesgive situation, original girl beats ever loving crap out of boy. This might be funny once or twice, but the joke repeats, and repeats and repeats on a loop throughout the whole series. Lather, rinse, repeat. And when a relationship does start to develop between Saito and Louise, Saito still seems to be interested in other girls. Rather than using this for actual conflict or drama, it results in, yep, more whipping. No development of their relationship, no understanding, just whipping. Louise doesn't even bother switching up punishments, or using other gags as punishment.
As for the magical school element, many have compared this to Harry Potter. I would sooner compare it to The Worst Witch. In a magical school, Mildred Hubble is the worst witch, unable to perform even the most basic spells and earned the nickname 'Worst Witch' from her peers, and later discovers she, in her own way, is in fact quite powerul. Sound familiar?
The story takes a turn about halfway through and tries to add in a little political intrigue. Tries. In the end, it doesn't really accomplish the backstabbing, coat and dagger politics of Last Exile or Le Chevalier D'Eon. They seem to be trying, adding in familiar, historical and mythological elements to the story. Unfortunately, they are often full of holes, poorly executed, or seem to come completely out of nowhere. Let's take Tabitha for example. The quiet bookworm friend of Louise's school rival Kirke is revealed to be a Princess from Gallia. She might have inherited the throne too, if her father had not been murdered by a faction that wanted to put her father's brother on the throne instead. Her uncle also wanted Tabitha out of the line of succession (which would not happen with Early modern primogeniture laws in which MALE heirs suceed) and one of his supporters tries to kill her via a glass of poison. Her mother gets wind of it and...alright, seriously, if someone tries to poison your kid do you A) Take the poison away from her and use it as evidence to bring the bastard to justice B) Take the poison away from her and dispose of it so everyone will be safe C) Take the poison away from her and drink it youself inducing a lifetime of mental scars for your child and leaving her to fend for herself when you become and insane vegetable. Tabitha's mother and parent of the year chose C. Political intrigue? Yes. Well executed? No, not really.
What really grates me about this series though is the History parallels. Each country has an Early Modern European counterpart. Gallia is France, Germania is Germany and Albion is England. Might be original if I hadn't seen it in Trinity Blood first. But in the Albion subplot, involving a revolution, involved elements that personally offended me as someone with Irish heritage.
A romcom with excessive panties and gags about boobs, brought up Oliver Cromwell.
Not Cromwell himself, but his equivalent in a parallel universe. That still doesn't make it acceptable to me though. Some might say I'm butthurt over something that happened hundreds of years ago, but this to me is serious. Oliver Cromwell slaughtered 25-40% of Ireland's population, and became the closest thing to a military dictator England hand, led an ultra Puritain regime that banned Christmas, staughtered Catholics by the thousands, and these people had the absolute gall to turn him into a villain in an anime romcom focusing on panties and boobies. Next time, let's imply something about Hitler, shall we?
The Sound was something I kind of liked. It was nothing special, but the European flavor brought out the exotic location well. The J-pop opening was cute, and fitting with the cutesy style of the characters and the romantic comedy premis, and the ending seemed to sum up the character's feelings as well. If you have a choice between sub and dub, pick sub. The English voice track left a LOT to be desired.
The art was reminissent of moe and seemed to have a slight influence from nineties fantasy anime like Escaflowne. The animation was nothing mindblowing, but it stayed at a consistently good level throughout the whole series, never really dipping in quality. Character designs are pretty standard. There's the flat loly, her big breasted mature rival, the book worm, the playboy, the fat kid, the old wizard, the normal boy...we;ve seen them before, and honestly they did not try to do anything really new or unique in the character designs.
As for the characters themselves, they might as well been pulled out of a stock folder. The young girl who has useless magic and turns out to be a sort of 'chosen one'. The busty and sexually mature rival to the smaller girl who's main motivation is sex/love. The bookworm with a tragic/interesting past who rarely speaks or socializes. The playboy. The perverted old man. The normal everyman for otaku boys to project themselves on. Villains whose main motivations are being evil for the sake of being evil (seriously, they take over a kingdom, and slaughter the royal family, and we have no idea WHY. Also the Cromwell reference. I won't forgive this series for that.) None of the characters seem the least bit original, and their dialogue is completely cliched.
As for Enjoyment, I know a lot of people like this series and I can see why. There's something here that almost everyone can enjoy. Girls can get into the romance, guys can like the fanservice and explosions. At the same time though, it's all usually underdeveloped, cliched, or unexplored. I suppose this might be covered in later seasons, but in this one, nothing really gets resolved. The good guys save the day, but the show's main focus, Louise and Saito's relationship does not seem to have changed since day one. Saito screws up, Louise beats him, end series. For those who like the cliches, good for you and you will probably like this. For me, I didn't, I explained why, and please respect that.
Warnings: Panties galore, boobs, boob gags, mild language, character death, fighting, explosions, abusive relationship, reference to debatably genocidal miserable wretch of a human being who slaughtered my ancestors. read more
13 of 13 episodes seen
This is a genuinly fun series. With few deep, hidden meanings, it's a series that wears it's heart on its sleeve. The character's feelings, intentions, and goals are all shown very clearly and honestly. So while the characters are rich and varried, they aren't very complicated. But then, we ARE dealing with a cast made up of idiots after all. For one reason or another, all of these characters get poor grades, whether they can't read kanji, had the misfortune of being sick on the day of placement tests, refuse to focus on school, or they're just plain stupid.
And because of their stupidity, they get placed in the lowest ranked class, with the worst teacher and the worst equipment. In the meantime, the smartest students get the best facilities. Now here's the twist, it does not have to stay this way. If the students in the worst class can beat the best class, then they can swap rooms and equipment. And how do they beat them, with futuristic chibi avatars whose strength is measured by their GPA. Simple right? Okay, not really, but trust me, you catch on and get used to it quick.
And this is where we get into what is the strongest point in this series, it's plot. It's something unique, that has never been done before, and adds a whole new dimension (literally) to the school-genre. While it's completely farfetched and ridiculous, it's still a fun and interesting premise for a comedy. And then there are multiple layers of subplots that keep things interesting when classes aren't battling it out for supremacy. Love triangles, squares, and one sided relationships are a staple of the series, all of which end in hilarity. The characters themselves are also a joy to watch, and I can't really praise this aspect of the show highly enough. While a few of them are simply archetypes cranked out in anime over and over, they play off each other in a way that makes it feel like you're seeing them for the first time. And of course, some of the characters are very unique. Hideyoshi...just, Hideyoshi, the bishonen boy who is repeatedly mistaken for a girl, to the point that the rest of the student body believes he is a woman, and Hideyoshi himself is in denial.
One aspect I really enjoyed about this series is the question: Are grades all that matters? Is there a way to get ahead in life, and maybe even ahead of the average joe, when you don't do well in school? It's a question that a lot of kids and young adults ask themselves, especially when they see their classmates showered with awards and scholarships, when they have to struggle (for whatever reason) to maintain a decent average grade. Is this all there really is to life? This is a question the main cast repeatedly puts to the test, and shows that even idiots can surprise you.
The art is very cute, typical moe, a bit reminicent of Higurashi (minus the blood). These characters are adorable, and so are their chibi avatars. The backgrounds are rich, and add to the overall humour, especially when contrasting classrooms. The animation is a bit choppy, but then, precise and graceful movements are not really required for idiots, and it's all for comedic effect. It also has a good range, and often parodies other styles, such as BL, shonen, and even a little horror. This are usually only done for a split second as a sight gag, but it's still pretty good art. The only downside is that these are often recycled from other episodes, rather than drawing more or different frames.
The sound I find is where the series suffers. For a show that is so original and unique, the sound is simply generic. Nothing new or exciting, just generic. It does not take away from the overall enjoyment, but it doesn't really add to it either. The music is generic for a comedy, and the sound effects are generic for one as well. Nothing spectacular, but not bad either. The voices are wonderfully melodramatic (keep in mind that the characters are idiots) and are able to blow the silliest things out of proportion or say the silliest things in completely serious ways. The English dub is also a joy to listen to. (The line "I don't want to be your dounut!" was stuck in my head for weeks.) Overall though, it's just...there. And after being spoiled by characters and plot, the sound drags it down.
Overall: Watch this series! It is so much fun, a perfect pick me up. And a little fun for the blithering moron in all of us.
Warnings: Jokes about homosexuality, sex, and breast size, skimpy outfits (nothing is shown), cursing, cartoon violence, and explosive nosebleeds. You also may laugh so much you burst a lung or two. read more
12 of 12 episodes seen
Directed by the infamous Nabeshin, this is exactly what one should expect from him, with a twist. This is the first ever anime musical comedy. While fans of the typical Nabeshin screwball comedy will love it's off the wall flavour, it was also the pioneer of a new subgenre. Unfortunately...the pioneer was drunk off his ass and ran his covered wagon into many a ditch.
The show does have a basic plot that tie all of the events together. Hideki, Ichiro and their cousin Mako have big dreams of building a concert dome on their daikon field in the suburb of Nerima, where they will perform for sold out crowds of adoring fans. The problem? The brothers and cousin are perpetually broke due to freak acts of nature, evil corperations, and Mako's horrible spending habits. The plot, believe it or not, can be heavily paralleled with 'The Blues Brothers' and the main characters even dress similarly to Jake and Elwood Blues.
In all actuality though, the series is actually a scathing political commentary on Japan in the year 2005. Nobody is safe from Nabeshin's satire. Issues dealt with within the series include privatization of land, the Japanese health care system, partner abuse, police corruption, sexual harassment, homosexuality, the horrors of the music industry, the Korean Wave and gambling, to name a few. Some political and social figures are even spoofed. The Prime Minister, Michael Jackson, and Johnny and Associates are all satirized. The political commentary was very clever, but is now unfortunately outdated, and fairly irrelevant to American viewers.
It's...Nabeshin. So expect a lot of eye poping, over the top visuals, and for stuff to literally come out of nowhere. The laws of physics do not apply. This is far from the fluid animation of animes like Fullmetal Alchemist, or with the detailed scenery of Le Chevalier D'Eon. It's zany, cartoony, and it fits. Scenes and visuals are routinely recycled along with musical numbers, which gets slightly grating. Charicatures of real people are often diformed and discoloured (Michael Jackson's counterpart 'Yukel Hakushon' has purple hair, yellow skin and a detachable nose.) There are also plenty of visual references and puns, though with quite a few of them you need a basic knowledge of Japanese, which the English language team tried to adapt, sometimes ineffectively.
Hideki's Japanese voice is perfect for the lead singer of a blues band. The Japanese crew has a much better balance than the English crew, but the dub still manages to convey all the humour of their Japanese counterparts. One main complaint the fandom has is Mako's Southern Belle accent (she speaks in Osakan dialect in Japanese). It can get fairly annoying after prolongued viewing. Another complaint is that the songs, while pretty good, and catchy, get repeated from episode to episode, with different lyrics. Remember what I said earlier about the pioneer for this genre drunkly driving the covered wagon? Well...this is probably a mistake future anime musicals can learn from.
If you knew them in real life, you'd probably want them institutionalized. Since this is an anime comedy however, all disorders can be forgiven for the rule of funny. Hideki wants to marry his cousin Mako, who repeatedly lies to him about how the Japanese constitution bans first cousins from marrying (it doesn't) while Mako herself is in love with Ichiro. Ichiro in turn loves a panda found in the daikon field. A female police officer Yukika 'inspector gadget' also falls in love with the panda, but is torn between her love of the fuzzy panda and the fishcakes found in ramen. And that...that's just the main love tri...octa...love plot.
Characters have a lot of negative traits, though most of these are played for humour. What makes them more sympathetic though is that they are constantly being ripped off and stolen from by larger corperations, clearly making the Brothers underdogs. The one problem is in the later part of the series, the writers try to create drama and tear jerking situations in a Nabeshin comedy, creating mood whiplash at times. It's hard to genuinly feel sorry for someone who was just involved in a high speed chase on a unicycle.
I loved this anime for it's political satire and clever pop culture references. The musical aspect too to an extent, but once songs started to be repetedly recycled, it got kind of old, even annoying. My personal problem was that this series tried to do too much. It tried to be a scathing commentary on the times, a pop culture riddled comedy, a screwball random comedy and a musical. While it was still a fun anime, it just felt like the show could not decide what it wanted to be. At any rate, anyone interested in a social commentary on Japanese life might want to have a peek at this, but keep the internet on hand so you can understand all the references.
Warnings: Nudity (some sexual positions are displayed in the art in Ichiro's Host Club) foul language, bestiality, cousin-love, mind rape (it's Nabeshin) sex based humour and racism against Koreans. Also, cue a pink Darth Vader just for added wtf-value. read more
24 of 24 episodes seen
The story is loosely (read VERY loosely) based on the life of the real life Charles D'Eon De Beaumont. D'Eon, considered the patron saint of transexuals in some circles was a courtier, spy and professional fencer. She also requested to be acknowledged as a woman during her life, so that is how I will refer to her. The real D'Eon was indeed a spy in Russia, as well as England and considered one of the top fencers in the world during her time. She did not, however, have a twin sister named Lia, which was largely a fabrication by a Russian Novelist. It is widely believed though, that D'Eon did in fact have some dirt on Louis XV
The setting takes us from the courts of Versailles across Europe to solve the mystery of Lia de Beaumont's murder. D'Eon (depicted as male in the anime) only has one clue to go on, 'Psalms' etched in blood on his sister's coffin. Almost immediatly stumbling into more than he expected, mysterious mercury infused corpses, magical psalms and political intrigue further complicate matters. D'Eon, his fencing instructor Teillagory, the pageboy Robin and the dashing Durand set off to set things straight...and are joined by Lia, who's spirit happens to posess D'Eon from time to time to kick some ass!
No moe-moe here. There are also no over the top transformation sequences, facial expressions, or 'going super saiyan' for lack of better terms. The art takes a semi-realistic style, with rich scenery and beautiful costumes. The production crew really did their research here in terms of period clothing and architecture. CGI is used occasionally, but nothing over the top, keeping effects subtle. If this sort of thing is your speed, it's almost worth looking at just for the scenery and architecture!
Do yourselves a favor and avoid the English dub. It isn't bad, just pretty monotone. Given the choice between the two, I would pick the Japanese dub any day with this one. BORN is a memorable opening, but nothing overly catchy, or one that would stand out from other anime openings. The background music is very well done though (again, nothing catchy, but then, it's background music) with nothing particularly jarring. Most of it is heavily based on European Classical compositions. However, it can be a little monotone at times.
History is a hobby of mine, and there are quite a few historical characters in this. D'Eon, Louis XV, Madame Pompadorr, Maximilian Robespierre, Louis XIV, Comte de Sainte Germain, and these are only a few of them! Needless to say, historical inaccuracy abounds, as in any work of historic fiction. Again, read: mercury-infused-parisian-zombie-prostitutes. If inaccuracies for the purpose of great story don't bother you, all should be well.
Development for D'Eon himself is limited, given that he has to share a body and screen time with the much more interesting vengeful spirit of Lia. The supporting cast is likeable, with heroes you love and villains you aren't sure whether to love or hate until their true colours are shown. Durand and Teillagory get interesting developments, and Robin's subplot in the end will just plain knock your socks off. The character given the most attention by far though is Lia, driven by revenge and a need to find out who killed her, and why she had to die. It's not all that often the victim solves her own murder. This does not mean though that all the minor characters are complete write offs; they are all needed and intricate pieces of the puzzle.
I had to cage up my inner history-geek, but it was a very enjoyable series. The plot though, is a big strength as well as a huge draw back. The show is very plot heavy, which leads to a lot of expository and dialogue (think Death Note in Period costumes). If that sort of thing bores you, I can almost guarantee you won't be able to stay awake through the whole series. For fans of the murder mystery genre, supernatural, historic-fiction and of course, cross dressing pretty boys, this is one for your completed list.
Warning: Contains Character Death, intense fencing, nudity, zombies, blood, loss of limb, coarse language, alcohol/drug use, prostitution, disturbing imagery, and parisian-mercury-zombie-hookers. Not for young children. I'd say PG-15 just because of the intellectual capacity needed to folow the plot without fanservice of any kind to tide you over.
Overall: 8 read more
24 of 24 episodes seen
Those familiar with the novel will know the basics of who the characters are and what the general outcome of the story will be, much like how anyone who knew the basic plot of Romeo and Juliet could easily predict what fate would befall the title characters in the anime Romeo X Juliet. To keep things fresh and interesting, the story gets an extreme makeover by catapulting the plot three thousand years into the future and onto the moon. The story is also told through Albert Morcef's perspective, rather than the Count's, allowing for a new take on the story and minor characters in the novel, such as Franz D'Epiney become more developed and are given a larger role.
The story follows the main themes of the novel though; love, betrayl, revenge and redemption. It is an intricately woven story throughout the 24 episodes, each one ending in a cliff hanger making the viewer want to jump right into the next episode. Elements of mystery and suspense are used so effectively, I was compelled to watch the whole anime in one sitting, something I have never done with any other anime before.
The visuals are beautiful and innovative, using textures rather than solid colours. While this can be disorienting at first, especially with layers of brightly coloured textures flashing across the screen, it does make for some of the most beautiful and creative scenery I have seen in any film media. The style is something unique to this anime and the CG components are excellent. Music is a mix of orchestral piano pieces, brooding techno, waltzes and the beautiful ballad 'We Were Lovers' for the opening theme. These combine the classical roots of the story with the futuristic elements wonderfully.
Characters in Gankutsuou are given little grey area. While some characters, such as The Count, motives and morals remain in the grey, most are clearly good or bad, making it heart wrenching when the good, and often innocent characters are pulled into the anti-hero's deadly revenge plot. The audience wants to see the bad guys punished by the man they betrayed, but at the same time want the innocent bystanders who are pulled into the plot have a happily ever after ending. Albert, the main character, is an idealistic and often rash, privilleged young fifteen year old. His angsting, naivite and rashness might grate some viewers, but at the same time his actions are believable for an average fifteen year old, unlike many shonen series. It also makes him more vulnerable to the more wily characters, as a child his age might be. Many of the characters are not all powerful, having both strengths and weaknesses, making them much more human and believable.
One aspect that won me over though was the portrayl of a character who is very strongly hinted at being homosexual. The Seiyu of this particular character confirmed his belief that the character he portrayed was indeed a homosexual. Rather than being slotted into a stereotype or cliche, this character is shown to be very capable, loyal and above all arguably the most rational individual in the series. He is not shown to be flamboyant, perverted, or visually offputing like many gay characters added in for laughs. This character was fleshed out, and in my opinion a very positive representation of a gay character. In fact he takes on many of the Japanese ideals of a homosexual lover, including beauty, brains, strength, sensitivity and above all loyalty. Bravo for this!
I would reccomend this anime for fans of drama, mystery, and suspense. Fans of the original novel; beware of deviations and creative liscense. This is not a completely accurate retelling of Alexandre Dumas' work, if you couldn't tell from the giant robots and space ships. The series contains alcohol and hints of drug usage, incest, hints of sex (both consensual and nonconsensual), human trafficing, violence, nudity, frightening imagery and character death. If any of this offends or upsets you, you may not want to watch this one (though you're really missing out on an awesome series).
Overall: This is the best anime I have seen in a very long time. It is the first anime that has compelled me to watch the whole thing in one sitting. The art is innovative, the story is intricately woven, the characters are believable, and the suspense keeps you on the edge of your seat wanting more. This one is a must for your 'completed' list. read more
52 of 52 episodes seen
This ONA follows little to no plot, but rather presents a series of skits and shorts like a variety show. Some of these take place during the WWII era, some take place in the present, some during the American Revolution or Austrian Succession ect. While the show is primarily a comedy, it sometimes deviates from this to present some drama that tugs at fangirl's heartstrings. Some moments are actually really touching or depressing, but then goes right back into screwball comedy.
The cast mainly follows the main Axis Powers: Japan, Italy and Germany, as well as the main Allied Powers: England, Russia, China, France and America. Characters are not really developed, but rather take on various cultural stereotypes and cliches. For example Italy is a lighthearted coward, Germany is strict and aggressive, America is loud, obnoxious and likes hamburgers. However it is not so much the characters themselves that draws me in so much as their interaction. The whole idea seems to be one of 'let's take these two polar opposites, put them in a jar, shake it and see what happens!' With over thirty personified countries in the cast and counting, the result is often hilarious to watch.
The animation, meant for five minute weekly episodes loaded to phones and other hand held devices, is not grade-A. France even jokingly notes that America's doodles are worse than the show's animation. It is choppy but filled with cute and brightly coloured pop art, which makes for an appealing mix despite the obvious cheapness. Clips are recycled or looped, but this is usually done for humourous effect and is even joked about within the series, effectively lampshading it. The music is often lighthearted and bouncy, typical of Japanese kawaii culture, but can also be deep and brooding depending on the events depicted.
The comedy itself is mostly based on stereotypes, culture clash, and bizarre events in history. For example there are many sketches with Japan and America being confused by each other's cultures, France tries to get into almost every character's pants, and Russia jumps out of a plane (based on stories of a group of Russian Paratroopers, who jumped out of a plane without parachutes believing the snow would cushion their fall.) In the English dub, a lot more of this is placed on shock value, with often offensive and insensitive oneliners. This is lampshaded in the commentaries where it is revealed that the VAs actually have competed with one another to see who could be the most offensive or crude and not have their lines cut. That said, the humour style can be equated to South Park, but with chibis.
That said though, some sketches can be very, very, very offensive, such as Polands involvement in the Second World War. I am not Polish, or of Polish decent, but I know the history, and found it appauling that a joke had been made about Germany's invasion of Poland in such a callouse way. Other events, such as the bombing of Hiroshima, Pearl Harbour, and the Holocaust are not mentioned in the series, possibly out of respect for the victims. This series is not for the sensitive, easily offended, or World War II veterans. (As funny as Hetalia is, some things are no laughing matter)
Hetalia is not a self contained history lesson. You will not learn all there is to know about history from Hetalia. It can however be a springboard to get the average anime fan interested in history and culture, turning that dusty old history textbook into fanfiction fuel. I personally enjoyed the series for this aspect, able to combine love of history with love of anime, spawning a fandom that both the deep thinking and crazy fans can enjoy. I watched this series to analyze war memory in Japan while the girl next to me could squeal over the cute chibis. The series, while shoddily animated and filled with crude humour on the surface has many layers and leaves a lot to be analyzed. read more
1 of 1 episodes seen
The imagery is stunning, and gorgeous, such as Palm and Popo in a canoo on a river filled with glowing lotus. The setting was reallly beautiful. However, that juxtaposed with a dying woman being attacked by what honestly look like giant phalac symbols is just plain strange and jarring, like watching a Dali Painting in motion. Characters are also designed to look childish, which seems at odds with the dark story.
The characters, overall, are an uninteresting bunch. Two of the main group seem to be there to look cute but serve no real purpose to the plot or development of other characters. Popo, the main heroine simply seems to be the world's whipping girl with no backbone. Palme is manic and seemingl has some kind of bipolar disorder coupled with a serious empathy problem, even going so far as killing something because he feels like it and is curious and practically kidnaps and hurts Popo, who he claims to love. Shaka, who becomes Palme's sidekick and son of one of the antagonists seems to be the most able bodied, mentally stable and interesting character but takes the back seat to our bipolar puppet friend.
The story itself is straightforward. The puppet wants to be a real boy and has to go on a journey to do so. However, the plot advances very slowly leaving the audience to watch Palme's psychotic episodes, watch Popo be abused, and be subjected to trippy imagery. With such a straightforward plot, one might have thought either the story could have been wrapped up sooner, or a little more effort could have been placed on characters. It also becomes more complicated than it really needs to be. Just when you think you have a grasp on Palme's psyche, or where the story is headed, it suddenly takes an unexplained, unnecessary manic change. What really should have been a fairly simple story was taken too far, filled with unnecessary or two dimensional characters and filled with more disturbed disorders and surrealist imagery than you can shake a stick at. It's completely disorienting.
This is certainly not a children's movie! If my descriptions of weird creatures shaped like male anatomy and psychotic puppets and violence were not enough to explain this, I'm not sure what will.
Sound and imagery are beautiful though. If anyone is interested in surealism or revisionist fairy tales, I would reccomend this, however for the general viewer it is simply trippy, boring and confusing to watch. It is overall a disorienting experience and a waste of two otherwise productive hours. read more
1 of 1 episodes seen
I did not enjoy this movie as much as other Ghibli, or anime films in general. Most of this was because I felt that many questions I had about the film and the world in which the film was set were left unanswered. This may have been because I did not read the book, however, I believe an addaptation should be able to stand on its own without needing to be familiar with the source material. For example, Gankutsuou still makes sense to those who did not read Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Christo and can stand alone as it's own piece of work. The Earthsea movie for me left too many questions. "Why are there slaves? Are there only certain people who become slaves or is everyone free game?" "Why do people fear witches and wizards if they're so useful? What's the basis for this prejudice?" "Why did the Prince stab the King? Why is this problem not addressed? How can people not notice a missing Prince and stabbed King?" These are only a few of my questions.
Secondly, the magic of the worlds did not seem adequately explained or built up. 'True Names' have power, but this is only really brought up halfway into the movie. Unlike Spirited away, this magic not based on an already well known or established folk lore or canon, so more explanation or build up would have helped to make it more effective.
Characters do not seem quite as sympathetic as subsequent Ghibli films. When reasons are given for characters to be sympathetic, it is simply mentioned in exposition, while showing it through flashback or dream sequence might have been more effective. Tennar mentions how Sparrowhawk once saved her a couple times during the film, but this and her relationship with Sparrowhawk is mostly left up to exposition which is not nearly as effective as showing it. Theru is a mysterious abuse victim who hates people who do not value life, why not show the audience why rather than having a character simply mention it? Why not give the audience more clues about her past to build suspense? And then there's Arran, who is supposedly our main character who seems entierly unsympathetic and uninteresting. I honestly did not see, throughout the whole film any good qualities what would draw me into his character or psyche. For a character with a past and backstory like his, I was really expecting more, and what was built up felt like a letdown by the end of the film. Really, his 'shadow'/split personality seemed far more complex and interesting (though that was not really explained either). What really makes it disappointing though is that the cover of the DVD and film posters show a picture of Arran with a Dragon, giving the audience the impression that this will be a film about a boy and a dragon, which, it isn't.
The sound was excellent though. Unlike other ghibli movies, it went with a very medieval and Celtic sounding soundtrack with reed instruments and even what sounded like bagpipes in some segments. It was truly beautiful to listen to and was a refreshing deviation. It helped drive home that this is a medieval fantasy world. The art and animation were stunning as usual, with breathtaking scenery. The film honestly did create its own, beautiful world.
My overall problem with the film was that the rules of the world were not properly explained and left too many questions. I am very aware that certain aspects of the story are lost in medium translation, but the audience should not be left thinking at the end of the film, 'I think I would have understood what that was all about if I had read the book.' As for the 'moral of the story' it feels like the writer is trying to beat it into the audience's head rather than let them figure it out. In past films, it is left up to the audience to be mature and clever enough to figure out the moral, whether it was environmentalism, pacifism, increased urbanisation, or even just being yourself. In this fim, it was repeated over and over until it honestly became annoying to listen to. I think after the second or third time, we get it already.
This film, unlike other Ghiblis, is certainly not for young children who are easily frightened. There is blood, hints of drug usage, human trafficing, violence, abuse, and frightening images that can upset young children and those who are easily frightened.
Overall though, it was not a terrible film. The story had potential, and was unafraid to touch on dirty, gritty subject matter. I would equate it to a well done B-movie, but it was a very far cry from being an A-lister. For a first film, it was very well done, and hopefully Goro Miyazaki can step up his game and fill the shoes of past directors. This film and director really do have potential, and I hope to see great things in the future. read more
13 of 13 episodes seen
The art for some can be trying. Tezuka's art style was largely inspired by old American cartoons, such as those produced by Disney, as well as Betty Boop among others, and the character designs reflect this. The 'futuristic' robots, computers and clothes may also seem very dated (think 'Lost in Space' dated). The art however does pay a lot of attention to detail, specifically medical diagrams, and the Ainu style designs on the clothes in one of the arcs particularly caught my attention.
Story is hard to describe, since the series is made up of five distinct, but loosely conected stories. Elements found in all of the stories are the Phoenix, a mythical bird tied closely to the mysteries of life and it's blood is rumoured to grant immortality. Saruta is also present in all stories, leaving it up to the reader to decide whether the various Sarutas are decendants or reincarnations of the original Saruta from the first story. The stories also take place in many different eras, from the begining of time until the end of time. The stories also do not follow a specific formula, and while each involves the Phoenix, the Phoenix is not always centric to the action. Most if not all the stories contain themes of life, religion, death, love and nature to varying degrees, some of them focusing more on one theme than the others. As mentioned before, fans of the series may be disappointed that all of the stories from the manga were not animatied.
The music in my own oppinion is amazing, particularly the opening theme, which is very flowing and uses orchestral arrangements. As great as it is, it does not overshodow the story, but rather ehnances it, and never seems awkward or clashes with the story or animation at any point. All music is appropriate to the scene.
In some stories characters must develop quickly. Stories can take 1-5 episodes to complete, so some characters must develop faster than those in previous arcs. While some characters do follow old archetypes and are unfailably good while others are unredeemably evil, there are some who blur the lines, switching sides, or having morally complex motives. Props are also given to this retro anime for having female characters who fight alongside male characters. Again, female characters can fall into stereotypes, such as the damsel in distress and evil queen, quite a few are equal with their male counterparts in terms of strength, speed and intelligence. Child characters are often confined to minor roles, making these stories that focus on adults, but a few fiesty, strong and lovable kids manage to weasle their way into the limelight.
I would recomend this particular title to a 13+ age group, especially for North American viewing. This is not because North American audiences are stupid, but there are references to Eastern Religions that young children may not understand, references to Japanese history, violence (such as a man being shot by arrows Boromier-style) and character death that may be upsetting to younger viewers. This is certainly a series recommended for Tezuka fans, fans of retro anime, fans of sci-fi anime and fans of historic anime. read more