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January 4th, 2009
I started a new blog called "Blue blue wave", you can find it here:

Hope you enjoy reading my blog there, which will include anime reviews and episode reviews. ^^
Posted by Smithy | Jan 4, 2009 3:21 AM | 0 comments
November 16th, 2008
“Mnemosyne”, also known as “Mnemosyne: Mnemosyne no Musumetachi”, is a six episode series containing a mix of supernatural, science fiction and horror elements. What will no doubt strike most viewers about this series are its explicit horror and sexually tinted scenes.
Considering these horror and sex scenes, as well as the themes behind them, “Menomosyne” is only suitable for mature viewers. Those who do watch will be treated to a dark series that holds some very interesting references and concepts, both apparent from its visuals or integrated in its plot.

The series' time frame spans over sixty years, the first episode showing us events that occur in 1990 while the last episode takes place in 2055. Some flashbacks even give us a glimpse of events involving the main characters that took place many centuries ago.
The story follows Rin and Mimi, two immortal women, their various encounters with different generations of the Maeno family, and the overarching plot around mysterious phenomenon involving Yggdrasil, everything is slowly unravelled piece by piece to come to a conclusion in the final episode.

In the beginning of the series, Rin and Mimi run a detective agency, as such the first episodes seem to be more independent mystery tales that reveal little about the girls' true nature as immortals and nearly nothing about the overarching plot. Gradually more pieces are added to the puzzle and the whole plot becomes clear during the final episode when its fully explained and the intention of those that were pulling the strings behind the shadows becomes clear. This can make the final revelations a bit of a paradoxical experience for the viewer.
On one end, as everything is explained to the audience about the mystic nature of the immortals, angels and Yggdrasil, it is rewarding to finally see the bigger picture of the series. On the other end since it was initially so vague that it seemed almost absent during the first episodes, most viewers who have developed a bond with the main heroines are more likely to focus on what becomes of them and may feel more alienated in regards of the overarching plot with Yggdrasil and its impact on humankind, even though it does involve the main characters.

At first glance it may look like the horror and sexual scenes are there just as selling points to brand the series and fit it in the horror or sexually explicit category, an impression that could even be reinforced when one realizes the meaning behind most of this horror and lust towards the latter half of the series. Yet I found they end up giving the series more depth and add weight to its themes of (im)mortality and human desires. Not only do those scenes explicitly reference to psychological themes or hold sociological meaning, they also tell us more about the characters involved, which may cast a more grim light on some but makes them that much more interesting and involving characters.
Much like the excessive horror and blood spilling in “Elfen Lied” served another purpose than just showing gore, which became clear as the series progressed and ultimately gave it a deeper meaning, especially for its characters.

The cast of “Mnemosyne” is rather small, which makes it easier for us viewers, seeing the limited number of episodes. Most are quite interesting, even when little is known about their pasts, the way they're presented and act shows more intricate and complex characters than the average bland two dimensional characters. Some even offer us quite daring and grim persona.

Rin of course gets the most attention and development, while Mimi is an interesting character, she clearly remains a supporting character to Rin.
Being immortal, Rin especially seems to almost seek out situations where she will encounter physical harm, her body often suffering atrocious injuries. While Mimi is more reserved towards dangerous situations, like Rin she too is no stranger in seeking out the extremes of physical pleasure, certainly sexual pleasures. In the end it's made apparent that being immortal can also be seen as a curse, cut off from one of the very foundations of what it means to be human, one's mortality and finity, the girls can often only thrive or feel alive by seeking out extreme physical experiences and emotions, be it through suffering or pleasure.

Paradoxically, their hearts and spirits are shown to remain as those of every other person, while somewhat desensitised towards certain concepts that normal mortal humans face, they became perhaps even more sensitive to others. When they are finally able to bond with someone and feel true emotions such as love, any joyful or painful emotions there seem to be felt even more vivid than for mortal humans.
More disturbing in that aspect, no doubt intentional, was the emotional torture executed on some of the characters, showing that physical pain while great and lethal, can still pale in comparison to mental anguish for which no true deliverance exists, especially when there is no deliverance to be found for it by death.

Portrayed as a strong female lead, who is not only smart and cunning but has terrific martial art skills, Rin is voiced by Mamiko Noto, whose subdued and soft voice could be seen as ill fitting but actually offers a nice contrast and adds indispensable depth to Rin's character by making her not only appear more serene and experienced, but also gives her the aura of a soothing mother figure. This gives Rin a believable mix of strength and vulnerability, of passion and serenity, of distance and attachment.

Mimi's character seems a bit more standard but also turns out to be quite interesting. Initially saved by Rin from being devoured by angel, Mimi's bond to Rin seems to be quite deep and even amorous at the start of the series, but later on those amorous and lustful feelings seem to have given way to a deeper and different attachment. Ultimately Mimi fights to protect and save Rin, the way Rin had once fought to save her.

While the bloody horror scenes should still be stomachable by most, the sadism exhibited in some scenes can be stomach churning. Some characters are repeatedly tortured and mutilated in such sadistic ways, it forms a dark and dire sketch of the inhumanity and levels of sadism some can display. Later in the series Rin even encounters a place where many other immortal women reside, chained in bondage by Apos who tortures them endlessly until they relish the pain and suffering, longing and lusting to continuously die in pain, to then be revived again and again. This could seem a gratification or even celebration of sadism, inflicting pain and sexual abuse. A theme that was also touched upon in “Higurashi No Koro Ni”.
The most sadistical of all characters, who takes great pleasure in causing physical torture, sexual harm and mental scarring was Apos, whose non human status as near deity makes it even more striking. Though as near deity he should be free of such human concepts, but since he is fed with the memories of humanity he longs only for more and sets out to create even more disturbing memories for him to absorb, causing great atrocities to his victims.
This marks Apos as the nemesis of the protagonists, as well as the ultimate evil as it is portrayed in this series. This does mean that next to defeating the one who stands against them and seeks to delve the world into destruction, Rin and Mimi also choose the path of humanity, that includes human emotions such as compassion, mortality, ... and the concept human immortality by passing on everything to the next generation that is reflected in the child that is born from Rin.

Next to the horror, there are many sexual themes and sexually tinted scenes, from near explicit sex scenes to the mutual effect immortals and angels have on each other. All immortals are women, who possess no other ability than always being regenerated into the same body they had when they became immortal. The only real treat to their immortality are angels, males that posses superhuman strengths offset by an extremely short lifespan. Devoid of any logical and normal reasoning, angels act as wild beasts that seek out immortals and devour them, they literally eat away at them until the essence of their immortality is consumed. The immortals are vulnerable to angels due to their overwhelming physical reaction to them, when close to one, they become utterly defenceless and lust to be embraced by them.
The sexual references are quite obvious, men are referred to as mindless beasts whose power is to subjugate and conquer women, women who regardless of their own powers such as continuing the circle of life, become lustful creatures unable to resist men.
The root of immortality as well as the angels' strength are spores from Yddrasil, orbs with a helix like shape nested inside, when burst the helix flows out as a viscous, white substance. While spores are explained to ultimately be a memory collector that relays information and memories to Yggdrasil, the reference to the helix shape of human DNA, the ovum and semen are blatant.

Its story also expanding into the future, “Mnemosyne” shows us an interesting view of mankind's future with a contemporary spawned idea of how the digital world permeate and eventually blend in with the real world. In such a high tech digitized world even mystic phenomenon such as immortals and angels become harder to mask from discovery if indeed real.

Animation by Xebec and Genco throughout all the episodes is good, with most focus on the female characters and the realistic, detailed backgrounds. The difference in care and attention of the animation between different scenes can be apparent sometimes. In some scenes where naked bodies are shown, they are not always drawn that well, especially Apos' body does not look as well animated as Rin and Mimi's bodies usually are. Some of the horror scenes that would have been too gory and no longer look convincing enough if directly shown, use clever tricks of shading and suggestion.
Overall, the animation of “Mnemosyne” is good, though I did miss a bit of the beautiful animation of Rin and Mimi in the last episode, near the ending sequence, it didn't seem as well cared for as in prior episodes. On many occasions the animation of Rin and Mimi is quite sublime, such as the view of Rin leaning against a stone pillar in the opening sequence.

The soundtrack of “Mnemosyne” is fairly good, the hard rock track accompanying the opening sequence immediately sets the trend for the more raunchy and hard hitting horror and sexual parts of the series. The remainder of the soundtrack does a good job at setting the mood and accompanying what happens on screen, though a more eerie soundtrack could have worked just as well but risked making the series a bit too dark.

I definitely recommend “Mnemosyne” to those who want to see an engaging story with an interesting lead character and aren't afraid of gore or sexually tinted scenes because regardless of those scenes, they emphasise some of the more interesting themes the series holds. And if you're watching it just for the horror and nudity, you'll no doubt be satisfied as well.
Posted by Smithy | Nov 16, 2008 8:50 AM | 0 comments
November 2nd, 2008
“Strike Witches” is a magical girl series rife with action, comedy and fanservice with a zest of yuri. Originally based on a light novel series, it first spawned an OVA in 2007 and this year a 13 episode anime series.

The story of “Strike Witches” takes place during the 1940's on an alternate version of our earth, where magic and technology coexist and most countries have different names. Thrust into a conflict that spreads across the globe by an unknown race or entity called Neuroi, the human race is put on the defensive after the Neuroi quickly wipe out several nations. Humanity's best hope to defeat the airborne Neuroi lies with the 'strike witches' of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing, young girls with high magical powers that are able to fly when donning their striker units, propulsion devices that envelop each leg.

Undoubtedly one of the series' prime and most visually obvious aspects are its copious amounts of fanservice. One could judge “Strike Witches” solely by its abundant fanservice, but this would be a short-sighted judgement.
The level of fanservice is obvious from episode one on, as in the alternate world that “Strike Witches” takes place in, women do not wear pants or skirts, they simply walk around with their panties or swimsuit bottoms showing in plain view. Each episode is packed with blatant pantsu shots and is rife with other fanservice scenes such as glances at character's bosoms, scantily clad bed attire or bikini's while during the obligatory beach scenes. On top of that each of the witches displays animal ears and tail when activating her magical powers, most likely this was intentionally added to appeal to the fans of animal eared girls.
To fully enjoy the series viewers must be willing to accept these high amounts of fanservice, so “Strike Witches” might not be for all audiences.

At first I too was reluctant, assuming the series would be mere mindless fanservice of a questionable level such as in “Kanokon” or “To Love RU”. Watching the first few episodes I was quickly proven wrong and discovered this terrific series holds much more. Though present in large amounts, the fanservice stays digestible and never becomes offensively rude or of poor taste. "Strike Witches" shows how fanservice laden series should be, cute and even daring or sensual, but never without reserve and all in sufficient good taste.

Furthermore, the series offers other well executed elements next to that fanservice, such as its homage and accurate references to World War II era air combat, flawless animation and classic but well executed plots such as personal growth, overcoming challenges.

Character design for the anime series as well as artwork for the “Strike Witches” light novels was done by Humikane Shimada, who was also responsible for the character designs of “Sky Girls”, hence associations between both series can easily be made. Next to character design similarities, both series show young girls on the front lines of an apocalyptic war where the human race must defend itself against annihilation from an inhuman entity.
There are also quite a bit of differences, from more obvious ones such as the series' length, “Sky Girls” being animated by JC Staff while “Strike Witches” is animated by Gonzo, “Sky Girls” with its post-modern setting has the girls use futuristic mecha while “Strike Witches” used the concept of magic to have the girls fly around with propulsion units inspired on World War II era aircraft.

With this World War II air combat element one of the other main themes in “Strike Witches” becomes apparent, all of the witches' striker units are reminiscent of existing propeller fighter planes such as the Mustang P51, Mitsubishi Zero, Messerschmitt Bf-109,...
The witches themselves are based or named after famous World War II ace pilots such as Pierre Clostermann, Erich Hartmann, Chuck Yeager,...
“Strike Witches” is full of references and homages to combat aviation from that era, including these direct references to air planes and pilots but also showing accurate recreations of fighter plane combat manoeuvres and tactics.
Furthermore the series accurate and detailed depiction of historic weapons and military equipment is remarkable and helps immerse the viewer into a World War II era atmosphere. Plenty of attention to historical details was made to accurately recreate era weaponry and equipment, such as the Maschinengewehr 42 or M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle.

While most characters may seem generic, they never come off as uninteresting. “Strike Witches” features quite a large cast, there are no less than 11 witches in the 501st Joint Fighter Wing, nearly four times as much as the girls of “Sky Girls”, yet “Strike Witches” has only half the episode count. With those time constraints it is to be expected that not all characters get the same amount of airtime or background depth, yet “Strike Witches” manages to give every character its moment in the spotlights which introduces her better to the viewer or reveals more about her past background.
No characters jump off-screen as being novel or unexpectedly deep, most are based on well known character formula, but because we are either shown their background story or they get enough scenes to make them familiar so that we as viewers will end up knowing all of the witches well enough to care for each of them.

The writers did a terrific job, certainly so seeing the number of characters and time constraints. While we're never told much about the pasts of Lynette, Perrine, Erica or Lucchini, their actions and interaction with the others firmly establishes their characters. We're shown scenes or sub plots about the pasts of Minna, Gertrud and Shirley, which immediately makes us feel more involved. So even though there's so many girls next to Yoshika, the leading character, throughout the episodes the viewer will become attached to each and everyone of them.
With an all female cast, several yuri or shoujo-ai pairings and scenes are a given. While some of the girls have strong bonds of friendship, like Lucchini and Shirley or Mio and Minna, others are hinted or plainly shown to be more than friends, which either leads to humorous scenes such as Perrine's jealous fits, Yoshika's infatuation with Lynette's bosom or to more endearing, romantic scenes like those between Sanya and Eila.

The animation by Gonzo is absolutely stellar in this series. Quality almost never drops and retains a high level throughout all of the episodes, with gorgeous scenes and renderings of all the cute witches with a lot of attention to detail. The many air combat action scenes are fluid, fast and well done.
The 3D CGI generated Neuroi are portrayed as alien flying entities built up from black honeycomb structures which makes them not only simple but also makes them seem more realistic and acceptable compared to the Worms from “Sky Girls” which appeared as large animal-like things.
Many series should have consistent animation levels like “Strike Witches”, especially the characters are so well animated, a true feat Gonzo accomplished here when compared to their other creations.

The first Japanese DVD releases of “Strike Witches” have shown Gonzo took it a bit further for the DVD versions, removing any censoring present in the episodes of the television broadcast, where steam, rays of light, shadows or other obstacles obscured full view of the character's bare breasts and the likes. Hence the DVD versions seems more niche oriented than the television broadcast version and as such may not appeal to the viewers who are not keen on the fanservice element of the series. Such casual viewers may be best served by watching the regular television broadcast episodes.

Music is more generic in “Strike Witches”, while the soundtrack is solid, it does not particularly excel on its own but contents itself by accompanying and supporting what is seen on screen, a job it does well. The opening track 'Watashi Ni Dekiru Koto' (the things I can do) is an upbeat song full of hope, which accentuates the theme of Yoshika's struggle to be able to achieve her goals as a witch.

I do recommend “Strike Witches” to everyone looking for a nice series with a good mix of action and humour, regardless of the more niche elements it has like its fanservice it will no doubt be a fun series to watch for all.
Those of you interested in seeing cute images of the “Strike Witches” girls should definitely check out Humikane Shimada's artworks for the series, they're absolutely terrific.
Posted by Smithy | Nov 2, 2008 10:02 AM | 2 comments
October 26th, 2008
“Zero No Tsukaima: Princess No Rondo” is the third season of the “Zero No Tsukaima” anime, an adaptation of the currently still ongoing light novel series. As a third instalment, it is recommended to already have seen the two previous seasons, else you may not fully grasp several of the plots or know the character's different pasts and backgrounds.

The first “Zero No Tsukaima” series was quite enjoyable, while not particularly extraordinary it offered us a nice romantic comedy with an ill-tempered flat-chested tsundere female lead who was one of the characters that would help launch the recent popular movement where plenty of series each season feature that type of tsundere character. Many of those more well known tsundere female leading characters like Louise from “Zero No Tsukaima” are voiced by Rie Kugimiya, a good seiyuu who plays those roles well but one has to wonder if she's not being typecast too much.

While I enjoyed “Zero No Tsukaima: Princess No Rondo” it definitely felt like the least good season of all three, an impression that is enhanced by the fact it seems more like some sort of intermission or a stepping stone meant to introduce new characters and new villains before embarking on a new large adventure.

In the previous season “Zero No Tsukaima: Futatsuki No Kishi” we were treated to some more entertaining and gripping character development between Saito and Louise. That season also offered interesting developments and concepts about Halkeginia, where the story takes place. At the end of that season both Saito and Louise had made their feelings of love for each other clear and got married, after which Saito rushed off to battle, intent on protecting Louise, a price he nearly paid with his life. Magically revived by an elf, he was able to reunite with Louise.

“Zero No Tsukaima: Princess No Rondo” starts roughly there, when our cast undertake a search for the elf who saved Saito. That elf turns out to be the kind, naïve and ridiculously large breasted Tiffania. As one might expect Saito is easily enchanted by Tiffania's large bosom which leads to many jealous fits from Louise and oppai jokes abound in all of the following episodes.
With Siesta already having served the role of the large breasted female who charms Saito with her bosom and makes Louise jealous with envy in the previous seasons, one could wonder if it was necessary to add another female character with an even larger chest to play on those typical jokes.
Luckily they did not make Tiffania into another girl that is smitten for Saito, while she clings to Saito, it's made obvious she sees him as a dear friend but not more. While still enough to enrage Louise, it never comes off as a true romantic pairing.
As the opening sequence of “Zero No Tsukaima: Princess No Rondo” suggest, this season does see another girl grow feelings for Saito, namely Tabitha who develops affections feelings for him after he comes to her rescue.

Triggered largely by the original disappearance of the Gandalfr mark on Saito after his death and resurrection, her own small chest size compared to Siesta and Tifania's, the entire season has Louise doubt herself and Saito's feelings for her. Even though she is able to summon Saito once more as her servant and his Gandalfr powers return, she is still besieged by doubts.
Arguably, this occurred in previous seasons as well, with several plots where Louise overcame her insecurities and was able to grow from there but by now it starts to become quite tiresome. Even after he confessed his love for her, married her and even died for her, Louise still doubts Saito's feelings and is unable to make her own emotions clear to him, which only worsens things between them. You could say Louise carries that burden of insecurity due to her lesser magical skills, but then you would also start to wonder how Saito can keep on coping with Louise's incessant insecurities about herself and his feelings for her.
For the sake of decent storytelling they really should move on from there and focus on other characters their development or other traits in Saito and Louise. Personally I had increasing difficulty to really enjoy the series with Louise's incessant insecurities, it seems to drag on for too long and is becoming a bit much to bear.

Another new character we are introduced to is the happy-go-lucky blue haired Irukukwu, who soon is revealed to be the human form of Tabitha's familiar, the dragon Sylphid. One could ponder what the real use was to give Sylphid a human form she could transform into, so far it comes off as mere fanservice to allow another moe large breasted girl to prance around in the series. Alas she feels little more than filler or a character solely meant to drive on certain scenes or plot points.

Princess Henrietta is featured less this season, nonetheless her character shows some more interesting and subtle evolutions. In the earlier episodes it is suggested she too may have romantic feelings for Saito, in part triggered due to the loneliness her position brings with it and her envy of Louise, who she sees as a strong, moral person that can take independent action by her own power, something she herself can not. That and some of the decisions she is forced to make, show a more realistic and three dimensional character in a series that else features rather generic persona.

Most of the episodes are spent on Tiffania joining the cast, a new villain and his minion that come after Louise, a character thought to be dead coming back to rejoin everyone on their adventures and the last episodes they go off on a quest to rescue Tabitha. While there are enough events and action, it still feels like some sort of intermission chapter, meant to bridge the previous story and set up the next.

Animation by JC Staff throughout the series is decent, it never particularly excels or disappoints but is a solid average. More attention is spent on the cute girls and any fanservice scenes. The magic wielding action scenes in comparison, while still decent get less of a visual treat.
Typical for the series are the vividly colored and crisply rendered characters, full of bright hair colors and outfits.
There seems to be less effort in rendering the medieval backgrounds and world of Halkeginia on screen, which is a shame as such adventure filled series taking place in other realms can always excel by really immersing the viewer in their unique world.

The soundtrack of “Zero No Tsukaima: Princess No Rondo” is fair, it boasts an upbeat techno-pop opening song and generic tunes that accompany the series well but never really accentuate or help elevate it. Most goes largely unnoticed although the opening track manages to get you fired up and enthusiastic about the episode to come.

In all I would mostly recommend “Zero No Tsukaima: Princess No Rondo” only to fans of the series and those who have seen the previous season and want to know what happens after those events. For the casual viewer, there are other series that would offer more laughs and fun. After this weak season, I ponder if I would pick up a fourth “Zero No Tsukaima” season if (or when) it were to come.
Posted by Smithy | Oct 26, 2008 8:55 AM | 0 comments
October 7th, 2008
“Macross Frontier” is a mecha sci-fi series whose goal is to celebrate 25 years of “Macross” anime and bring all the different “Macross” series together.

As such all of the typical Macross elements are present, transformable veritech fighters (from airplane to robot forms), giant spaceships, young men dreaming of soaring the skies, the many faces of being a popular songstress, from being discovered to becoming the people's idol and perhaps saviour.
As a celebratory series that aims to bring all the previous series together “Macross Frontier” is rife with references to the other series, from explicit plot references to obvious links or Easter eggs. While viewers who have seen the other “Macross” series will be able to enjoy all the references and possibly gain a better understanding, anyone without prior knowledge about the other “Macross” series will be able to follow and enjoy “Macross Frontier”. The key plot elements necessary to follow the series and its premise are sufficiently explained so no one is lost as to what is happening.
Myself I have seen the original “Macross”, “Macross Plus” and “Macross Zero”, but not “Macross 7” so any references to “Macross 7” were lost on me but that never detracted or lessened the viewing experience or ability to comprehend the plot.

The characters in “Macross Frontier” were quite good, most were rather three dimensional and not merely generic characters. Next to the man characters Alto, Ranka and Sheryl who were all complex enough, a good ensemble of their supporting cast were sufficiently fleshed out to become quite interesting as well, especially Michael, Klan and Luca. Other characters like Nanase, Brera and Ozma were more typical characters however.

As the first opening song's title “Triangular” suggests, “Macross Frontier” features a love triangle between the main characters Alto, Ranka and Sheryl. One that is quite well handled and brought on screen during the entire series' run. While there are hints of a lot of possible drama and suffering that comes with such a situation, the final episode leaves things more open on a positive note. While it's a nice ending, the chance to conclude with some really gripping dramatic storytelling is hence missed, and seeing throughout the series the painful elements of their love triangle are often brought forth, this is still a shame. Nonetheless, the final episode definitely has its charm and hits the mark.

Having two songstresses with Sheryl -the established and widely popular artist- and Ranka -the new upcoming refreshingly innocent starlet- leads to a unique dynamic that allows for many poignant scenes and plot possibilities which the series makes good use of. Add to that each has their own distinct personality and troublesome past they must discover and overcome, they prove to be entertaining characters.
Alto may seem to be a more standard male lead as he's often hot headed and fails to make any decision or progress in his relationship with Sheryl or Ranka, but the manner in which his motivations and goals are ultimately portrayed make him less generic after all. As for him not making a definite choice between Sheryl or Ranka, while it's implied he may have deeper feelings for both, his goal was always to live his own life so he foregoes any decision even if that has others accuse him of just acting and trying to please everyone. Aiming to not hurt either since he holds them both dear, both Sheryl and Ranka are important people to him, they motivated him and helped him get to his goal. So paradoxically Alto ends up holding both Sheryl and Ranka close to him, while at the same time keeping them at a distance too.

“Macross Frontier” seeks and ultimately achieves to also squeeze enough sub plots in, from the battle of survival against the Vajra, the relationship between humans and Zentraedi, the different evolutions people must make, experiencing and overcoming loss, political intrigue,... most are handled well.
Towards the end of the latter half of the series the pace picks up and the atmosphere slightly darkens, and themes such as survival, genocide, the pain of loving and losing are brought in a manner that's quite surprising and gives the series a more serious and darker tone up until the final episodes. Especially when one of the more important characters dies, the sense of loss this means to the other characters and how it affects them is brought forth. This was however necessary as in the episodes before, the Macross inhabitants have already suffered serious losses and damage to their habitat ships but as none of the main cast were directly affected, it would feel distant to most viewers. Having a significant character disappear has a definite impact to illustrate the grave situation the cast find themselves in.

Without wanting to spoil too many details, the final action packed episode brings everything to a happy conclusion where the true evil doers are defeated, peace is achieved and everyone lives on in peace. Seeing the celebratory character of “Macross Frontier” and the message of wanting to live on, living one's own life that permeates throughout the series, this is a nice and fitting ending.

Animation in “Macross Frontier” alas suffered from being quite inconsistent, there could be a visible difference in animation quality between episodes or even between scenes. This was quite apparent due to the fact many scenes or full episodes have truly sublime animation, with gorgeously animated fast-paced action scenes and incredibly detailed characters, with great shading and colouring. So when the animation level drops it often stuck out like a sore thumb. I doubt it would ruin the viewing experience for anyone, though most people will pick up on it and notice it.
Regardless of the animation quality drops here and there, “Macross Frontier” boasts some of the most intricate, flashy and lusciously animated mecha and space combat action scenes seen these recent years, for fans of that genre certainly recommended not to miss.

“Macross” has always had music as a theme or plot device, accordingly the music in “Macross Frontier” is quite frankly fantastic, Yoko Kanno produces an awesome soundtrack filled with different styles, a real musical centipede with tracks that perfectly accentuate the events on screen. The opening, closing and insert songs are all good tunes and nearly all other known songs from previous “Macross” series are sung throughout the series. From the original opening songs “Triangular”, “Lion” , catchy pop/rock tunes full of energy to “Diamond Crevasse”, “What 'bout my star” and even the classic "Ai Oboete Imasu ka“ and "Watashi no Kare ha Pilot” from earlier “Macross” series, all excellent music that adds to the series atmosphere and enjoyment.
For those interested in soundtracks, the “Macross Frontier” original soundtrack is definitely worth it and quite pleasant to listen to by itself as well.

Any “Macross” fan should check out this series but if you like mecha, action or space adventure, then you will surely enjoy “Macross Frontier”, it's no doubt one of the best series of the spring/summer 2008 season.
Posted by Smithy | Oct 7, 2008 12:31 PM | 0 comments
October 4th, 2008
Many series wrapped up the past weeks, I also finished watching “Nogizaka Haruka No Himitsu”, a romantic comedy based on a series of light novels with the same title.
The series focuses on the relationship of its two main characters, Haruka and Yuuto, how they meet, form a bond of friendship that eventually develops into love, all in a mix of comedy, romance and some fanservice type ecchi situations.

As the title suggest, the main plot centres around Haruka's secret, she's an otaku. While this would not be so shocking by itself, Haruka is the eldest daughter of an extremely wealthy and renowned family, she possesses great beauty, has excellent academic skills and is a talented piano player, which makes her a star and the object of admiration at the prestigious private school she attends. If such a person were to be exposed as an otaku, they would be ridiculed and ostracised, something that already befell Haruka at her previous school. Hence she carefully hides her hobby from the outside world.

This is soon undone when Yuuto bumps into Haruka at the library and discovers she's secretly borrowing anime magazines. Fearing her secret is exposed, Haruka is distraught but eventually relieved when Yuuto tells her that he does not mind her being an otaku and will keep her secret safe.
With Yuuto now sharing Haruka's secret, hence forms the main plot device to allow them to interact daily and become friends. Along the rest of the series both Haruka and Yuuto are faced with challenges that threaten their individual happiness or their relationship, from Haruka's strict father, to a potential love interest for Yuuto, to the difference in status that comes with Haruka's wealth. Seeing this is a comedy, most of is done with plenty of funny scenes and off course it all ends well with Haruka and Yuuto happily together.

One of the series' strong points is also its weakness, namely its characters. While most of the supporting characters are rather two dimensional and not much fleshed out, both Haruka and Yuuto are a paradoxical combination of some interesting traits as well as more generic character traits.

Haruka being of wealthy descent, blessed with great beauty and academic skills and having several character traits such as shyness and clumsiness that are solely aimed to cater to the audience is nothing new in terms of character design. That such an unrealistically perfect persona has a passion for which one is ostracised in Japan, yet stands up for her beliefs and isn't free of normal human emotions such as doubt and jealousy makes her a more three dimensional character. A welcome surprise.
No chance is missed to display Haruka's moe character traits and truth must be said, she is quite moe.

Yuuto too is such a mixed case, he has many traits of the classical romantic comedy or harem male protagonist, such as being shy around women yet desiring them, he is indecisive and well, he's rather plain. Nonetheless, Yuuto is also shown to be a very level-headed and open minded person, who accepts people's different interests and who will not ostracise anyone, even if he does not understand the things they are passionate about. Having such an adult, open minded character that does not succumb to blindly following the group mentality is interesting, especially if you see the majority of his peers will ostracise and judge someone like Nobunaga -Yuuto's otaku friend- or Haruka without any second thoughts.

While being rebellious is surely not an unknown phase to many of Japan's youth, being open minded, willing to form one's own opinion that may not align with the public one in a positive fashion is more rare.

I also found Shiina to be a quite refreshing character. Transferring into Haruka and Yuuto's class, she develops a liking to Yuuto, but once she discovers that Yuuto and Haruka care deeply for each other, she takes a very adult stance and decides to let go, intent on merely being friends with him.

Throughout the series some dramatic moments or events are generated but rarely does one have the impression anything really bad will occur, due to the colourful and comedic atmosphere the series carries. Everything is usually very upbeat and positive, emanating an “I can do it!” message.

Even though the theme of otaku being ostracised and publicly shunned is often mentioned, it's used more as a plot device and never really deeply delved into. Haruka and Nobunaga are shown to be normal people who just happen to be passionate about anime, manga, figurines,... but that does not make them any less human or valuable people than you and me. It's nicely brought on screen but lacks the depth, subtlety or realistic tone a series like “Genshiken” carries with it. Nonetheless, it's a good message they deliver since there's nothing wrong with otaku, there may be something wrong with some otaku but that's due to the people themselves, not the hobby.

Animation in “Nogizaka Haruka No Himitsu” is good, with most of the focus being on the girls like Haruka, with fanservice scenes and shots getting the best treatment. I did notice that some full body shot scenes where characters are in their regular appearance do look more simple and less elaborate, but this is never bothersome.

The soundtrack is quite nice, it supports most scenes well and the opening and ending theme songs are upbeat tracks, though the opening animation sequence leaves little to no doubts about the series' general direction.

On a personal side note, having seiyuu Noto Mamiko play a girlish, moe character like Haruka was good to wash away any bad memories from her voice work as Kouta in “Kanokon”. While there is nothing to remark about her performance in “Kanokon”, I was sorely disappointed in that series.

So for those looking for a cute romantic comedy that has a positive overtone and a moe female lead character, then you may certainly enjoy “Nogizaka Haruka No Himitsu”.
Posted by Smithy | Oct 4, 2008 6:20 AM | 0 comments