25 of 25 episodes seen
Story: There’s a story here, but you’d barely know that. Our main character Hiro is killed 5 minutes into the show when some steel beams randomly fall from nowhere, and he pushes Hime out of the way, thus saving her. In return, she grants him half-immortality and makes him one of her servants, as apparently here entire family is trying to kill each other over some right of succession. Not that you’d ever know that though, as you effectively see 4 of the siblings in the show, and there is only a single 2-part arc where any of them seriously fight. So, the show revolves around a war between siblings, that isn’t in the show! Outside of that, it’s truly a random monster of the week format, where they introduce some new monster during each episode that our hero’s have to defeat, and half the time, said monsters are sent as assassins by the siblings that you never see, but are supposedly out there trying to kill Hime. This show never, ever, EVER goes anywhere! There’s no more conclusion to the whole sibling war at the end of the show, than there was at the beginning of the show. Actually, you don’t even know how many siblings there are! There could be a thousand, or five, you never know, but by about a third of the way through, you simply won’t care.
Characters: This show’s one claim to fame is that it sports literally the single most useless character in the history of the world! Hiro, Hime’s first servant in the anime, is your average teenage boy, no powers, no martial skills. For some shows, that’s perfectly fine, but in a show where supernatural monsters are trying to kill your boss, normal teenage boys aren’t particularly useful. The only thing he ever really does effectively is throw himself in front of attacks, and DIE! I actually lost track of how many times he dies, and after a short bit, you simply kinda wait for his inevitable death and resurrection. It’s not like any of the other characters are all that useful either though. Riza, the half-werewolf has about two or three episodes where she’s actually useful, most of the rest of the time, she sucks almost as bad as Hiro. There’s the vampire Reiri, but she’s got a reason not to fight almost every time. And then there’s Hime (who goes by that since she’s a Princess and apparently hates her name) who for the life of me, I can’t understand how she’s survived. She’s got no real powers other than granting half-immortality to others, and the first one she goes and does that for, leads her enemies straight back to her half the time. The robots….ugghhhh…if I hear “Huga” one more freaking time! The bottom line, these characters suck! They don’t progress, there’s no depth to any of them. They each boil down to being a single thought regurgitated throughout the entire series. There’s about a half an ounce of personality between ALL of the characters combined, they aren’t likable, and by the end of the show, I was actually rooting for them to die.
Presentation: The music isn’t good, but it won’t make your ears bleed, so I guess that’s a bonus. There really isn’t much else to say about the sound, it’s passable if you aren’t looking to remember it five seconds after it’s passed. The art is not good, but not terrible. The characters are plain and boring, with the princess being the only character that’s remotely interesting, and only because of her eyes. The backgrounds are flat and uninspired, and the colors are pretty much a complete wash. In the end, I suppose it’s all done with competence, and if this show were put together by college students, it’d be alright. There’s very little to keep you interested from an artistic view point. Also, I think this a good place to point out that I did actually buy these from Sentai Filmworks. If these DVD’s are indicative of their work, I’ll never buy their products again, and I will actually highly suggest people simply get fansubs. If you’re only putting out a subtitled product, then your subtitles had better be good. But these aren’t even ACURATE! Characters names are misspelled, there are mistakes and missing letters in the subtitles, and worst of all, the subtitles aren’t even on by default!! It’s a sub only DVD, and you actually have to turn ON the subtitles. Thinking about this makes my head hurt, so I’m moving on.
Enjoyment: There’s none to be had, at all!!
In the end, this is a show that doesn’t quite veer into my depths of truly god-awful, but it’s certainly bad on almost every level. There’s really nothing to keep you interested in watching this show, as the 20th episode is exactly the same as say the 5th, and that’s not a good thing. The characters are dull and boring, if not downright offensive (Hiro’s naturally huge breasted sister borders on mentally handicapped). Even if you were just looking for mindless fan-service, this show wouldn’t deliver. There’s no real story, no character development, sub-par art and music, and no mind-less fun to be had. There’s really nothing redeeming about this show, so simply avoid it, trust me, you’ll be better off for it. read more
24 of 24 episodes seen
Story: Shakugan no Shana revolves around the story of two characters and their fight against evil. Shana is a Flame Haze, a warrior empowered with supernatural abilities to fight beings from an alternate dimension that feed upon humans called the Crimson Denizens. Yuji Sakai is dead, how he got that way is less important than the fact that he’s a Torch, or a being of limited existence that slowly fades away so that the rest of the world isn’t shocked when the Crimson Denizens eat people. Needless to say, you won’t be surprised when Yuji turns out to be special, and thus doesn’t disappear early into the show. To be honest, you probably won’t be surprised by much in Shakugan no Shana, as the story is fairly typical for a Shonen action series. Monsters show up for a handful of episodes, and Yuji and Shana fight them off. Between the fights, we get a bit of the calmer and normal “slice of life” type of setting. Where I think Shakugan no Shana really succeeds is the fact that they largely don’t fall back on it being a slapstick comedy or fan-service show in these “down time” episodes. Instead, they use the time not fighting to further develop the characters, and they do so with exceptional skill. For being a largely Shonen show, you’d think that the times not spent fighting would be rather boring, but in fact, these portions of the show are as enjoyable as the fighting, or in some cases, are even more enjoyable. Some of the ideas presented here are quite inventive, with the torches’ and Flame Haze’s, but overall it’s nothing that’s breaking the mold. The story is adequate in its own right, but it wouldn’t be exceptional without the characters that tend to carry it.
Characters: The heart and soul of Shakugan no Shana are the characters and how they learn to interact with each other. Normally, I’d be annoyed with this kind of show, as most of the characters are younger, and thus fumble about almost the entire show as they try to understand and deal with their growing feelings for one another. However, what would normally be infuriating with any other show comes across as charming and enjoyable with this cast, so it’s a testament to the show and the cast of the show that these characters have such life. Shana and Yuji are the cornerstones of the entire show, and their relationship is ultimately the most important one that there is. Shana is your typical super badass chick who’s had no real human contact, and thus has no understanding of her feelings. Over the course of the show, she has to confront them, and slowly grows and matures in a fairly normal way, one that is refreshing in this genre. Yuji isn’t too far different, and he has his own strength that makes him a particularly enjoyable protagonist. He learns early that he’s dead, so the rest of the show is him dealing with that, his desire to still help others and be remembered, and his own changing feelings for Shana and others. I applaud the fact that Yuji isn’t made into some headstrong nutcase that runs off half-cocked into every fight and causes trouble. Instead, he’s calm and level headed, and makes for a character you can root for. Added to these two are the number of side characters that flesh out the whole cast. You have your standard school-mates, including best friends, rival love interests, and general lackies. There are also other Flame Haze’s that are introduced throughout the first season, although none really play as big a role as Margery Daw, the “Chanter of Elegies”. I should hate this character, as she’s a personification of cliché anime idea’s, being the tall, overly busty blonde with a drinking problem. Despite being cliché, I don’t hate the character, I found her to be an enjoyable and light hearted portion to a show that normally takes itself pretty seriously. There are also the Crimson Denizens, who range from the fairly normal, to the borderline perverse. If there are characters that tend to break from tradition at least some in this show, it’s them, and they make for genuinely interesting antagonists. Overall, the characters are the best parts of this show, and that makes it even more rewarding when you get to see them fight.
Presentation: This is a gorgeous show. It didn’t dawn on me until after I had finished watching it how pretty it really is. The scenery and more serene portions are well done, and the characters for the most part of drawn with care that brings them to life. Most of the characters are relatively realistic looking, in anime terms, so the humans tend to look human, and the Denizens tend to look a little more out there. If I had a complaint, it’s the cowlicks; I don’t understand why so many characters here have them. Also, I’m sure some people will complain about the “Loli” aspects of Shana, as she looks to be about 10 years old in the show, but that’s a minor concern. There are area’s the show really excels, such as Shana’s transformation into the Blazing Eyes. Small touches like the constant flickers of fire that flow from her hair, or the brilliance of her eyes make for a strong impact, and you have to appreciate the intent of such art. The action sequences are well animated, with a lot of use of fire animation that works well. It’s not the most fluid show when it comes to the fight scenes, and it doesn’t live up to some of the better fighting shows out there, but the art carries its weight here and doesn’t really disappoint. The music is also incredibly well done; as I found the opening particularly catchy, and found myself not skipping the intro a few times, which puts it above most anime out there, as I rarely watch an intro more than once. The ending songs weren’t as good, but they aren’t bad either. The music used throughout the show is beautiful and well used, adding a lot of impact when it’s needed. I can actually see this being a CD someone would enjoy having, as the overall soundtrack is pretty damn good. The artwork might not be the best ever, but it’s damn sharp and it’s got it’s truly gorgeous moments, and the music while not making my ITunes list any time soon, stands heads above the majority of music that I’ve heard in anime recently.
Enjoyment: Of all the things I have to weigh when I give a show a rating, my enjoyment at watching the show tends to weigh the heaviest with me. Shows can be technically flawed, but if you love watching them, they should get a higher rating. This is the reason I ultimately came down with a 9 for Shana, as I was wavering between that and an 8. I think the creators managed to strike the perfect balance here between the fights and the character development. Even when they aren’t in the midst of a critical, life or death battle, you’re still interested in seeing what’s going on with these characters. I go back to my chocolate sundae analogy. This show is delicious! I found myself truly enjoying every second of it, and I look forward to seeing the later seasons.
In the end, I truly have to recommend Shakugan no Shana to anyone who’s a fan of anime. I’m sure that some people may be able to find some things to dislike about it, but that’s the case for almost anything. In the end, the minor complaints have a bit of merit, and thus why I give his a 9 and not a 10, but it’s still incredibly enjoyable, and if you’re willing to kick back and watch a fun show that’s not overly deep but still deeply enjoyable, then you’ll probably love Shakugan no Shana. read more
24 of 24 episodes seen
Story: Kurau takes place a couple of hundred years in the future, where multiple world wars and uprisings have given birth to a single power, the GPO, who provides security for the earth and the colony on the moon. Beyond that, Agents are often used for jobs that may fall outside of the GPO, and when the series starts, that’s the role that Kurau plays. Given that description, Kurau doesn’t seem to be any different than any other futuristic anime out there, and would seem plain on the surface. Fortunately, there’s more depth to the show due to the Rynax energy, its importance to Kurau and the rest of the humans and how that all plays out. The story of Kurau is a bit of a roller coaster throughout, as there are a lot of chase sequences due to the fact that the main characters are almost always on the run. These are broken up by the more mellow scenes that resemble your average quiet, slice of life type show, before more chase sequences emerge. This progression is recycled a few times, and while it works for the most part, each sequence is relatively short lived, thus leading to the eventual feeling that you’ve seen it all before. I couldn’t help but feel that the show might have benefitted more from having less of these cycles, and simply extending a few of the better ones overall, leaving more time to get invested with the characters situations before they’re forced to move on again. Fortunately, there’s a few things going on behind the scenes that keep the show interesting, and some of the side characters do a great deal of service to the show by adding more depth. There are some mysteries to be had, but nothing is out of the expected or norm here, and they aren’t really enough to keep you hanging on throughout the entire series. The story behind the characters is the best part, as it delves a lot into the relationships between people, whether it’s as family, friends or on a deeper level. Seeing the growth between the characters is what drives Kurau forward, even if the overall story of the show is rather lacking in a lot of areas.
Characters: As I said before, the characters drive this show, and they do an exceptional job at it. When we first meet Kurau, she’s a young woman who’s incredibly lonely and isolated, as a result of not having her other half in a literal sense. Pretty soon we’re introduced to Christmas, and the majority of the show is watching the growth and development both between these two characters, and almost more importantly, inside of Kurau who often has to deal with balancing her desire to protect and be with her other half, and the safety of the world. Kurau really turns out to be an incredibly strong protagonist, easily one of the more impressive ones I’ve seen in a very, very long time. You can’t help but root for her throughout, as she keeps her desire to help others no matter the cost to herself. Christmas seems initially naive, as but she grows throughout the show as well, both in her desire to protect Kurau, and in her understanding of why it’s important to protect everyone else. The two main side characters are strong in their own right as well, with Doug and Ayaka. Doug isn’t as well fleshed out, as he’s your average loving father who’s along to do the right thing, and I have flashbacks to Maes Hughes from Full Metal Alchemist, although a lot more toned down here in Kurau. Ayaka Steiger is a vastly more interesting character, as she’s got a lot of personal baggage in tow, and spends most of the show hunting down Kurau and other Ryna Sapiens for what she believes is the safety of everyone, only to have her beliefs challenged. Watching her find the truth, overcome her past, and move forward is almost as rewarding as watching the deepening relationship between Kurau and Christmas, and she does a remarkable job in terms of adding to the show as a side character. Another great character is Kurau’s father, who spends the show coming to understand his true role both in the events that changed Kurau’s life, as well as the research and damage he’s done in the years since. He, like many of the other characters of this show, grows into a truly fantastic character that changes along with the world. Beyond them, there are a gang-load of other side characters that don’t tend to resonate as well, but they still add some to the show overall. In the end, this is a show almost entirely about character growth and development, and while that sounds like it’d be a slow and dull show, these characters have a wealth of depth that manages to keep you enjoying their journey, even if there are a few pacing problems.
Artwork: The artwork for this show is really hit or miss, which I find rather surprising as I’m usually a really big fan of Studio Bones. The character animation in this show has a much calmer, almost mundane look to everything. That adds a lot, as you aren’t distracted by the crazy looking characters you might get in other shows. There’s no pink hair, cat ears, or big innocent eyes here. These are characters that draw you in by seeming more real, largely due to their more natural portrayal. The problem is that the animation is rather sketchy at times. Sometimes, the characters are animated gorgeously, and you can’t help but be impressed. At other times, it’s like they have no facial details at all, and they appear to be a pair of floating eyes on a face, and that’s incredibly jarring. These lapses can be seen in the background and scenery as well, as a scene can go from a gorgeous setting of candles floating down a river, beautifully animated to a rather plane scene on a train that shows flat, texture less and rather bland backgrounds. It’s not always bad, and it’s not enough to really detract from the show in my eyes, but it’s certainly not as breathtaking as a lot of other shows, and you can’t help but wonder if they couldn’t have spent a little more effort on this one. Bones has a great track record, so I applaud them for trying something new with their art here, I’d just say that they should maybe pay a bit more attention to detail, as that gets lost a lot here.
Music: Kurau’s music isn’t really anything that’s going to stick with you for an extended period of time. The beginning and ending songs are nice, rather mellow and enjoyable, but they aren’t the kind that makes you decide not to skip them. I watched them each once, and then felt no remorse about skipping them for the rest of the show. The insert music is a lot better, as it adds a lot of strength to some of the more emotional scenes, increasing their impact a lot and helping the show. The downside to this is that it’s the same music, splashed throughout the entire show during these moments. It works, but you can’t help but wonder here if they couldn’t have come up with perhaps one or two more songs to help out a bit more. While the music does help overall, in the end, it’s really not a soundtrack that you’ll likely be running out to buy.
Enjoyment: Throughout the entire show, I really enjoyed this series, but that was mostly due to the characters and their growth and relationships. It’s nice to see how all of them play out together, but the pacing problems throughout keep this from being an outstanding title. The fight scenes which I had certain expectations for were rather skimpy, although they do get better towards the end of the series, but the action certainly isn’t the highlight of this show. If you enjoy your shows with a bit more character development and a bit less action, then you’ll probably enjoy Kurau.
Overall, I certainly find it easy to recommend Kurau to people. The pacing and artwork can be a bit sketchy art times, but the characters more than make up for that. This was a show that I certainly didn’t get what I had expected out of it, but it turned out that wasn’t a bad thing. I had expected a more hollow action show, and got a slower, but more mature and deeper character driven show. If that’s what you’re looking for, then I encourage you to give Kurau a shot, as you may be surprised by it as well. read more
24 of 24 episodes seen
Story: I won’t go into the story of Kanon too deeply, but it’s basically about a young man, Yuichi, who moves in to live with his aunt and cousin, and thus returns to the town he used to visit as a kid. It’s been seven years since Yuichi was last at the town, and he has no memories of what occurred before. Throughout the show, Yuichi will meet a number of young women who are important to his past, and for whom he holds the key to their present. Kanon is based upon an adult visual novel and subsequent all age versions for the PC, and it revolves around individual arcs for the main female characters in the show. Normally, this type of setup doesn’t work particularly well for a full season of anime, as you’d tend to lose interest when the show jumps from one arc to another. It’s a testament to how well Kanon was done that when the show makes these transitions, they’re incredibly smooth and it seems more like life is simply going on, as compared to the jarring shift you might see in other shows based on this kind of formula. Another surprising thing about this show is that Kanon has all of the basic elements to be both a “Harem” and predominantly “Moe” show, but somehow manages to sidestep truly falling into either of these pitfalls. The characters are cute, vulnerable and all have a desire in some way or form for Yuichi, but at no point do these factors ever take over the show, they are simply characteristics that add to the whole package. While it does start out a touch slow, Kanon’s storyline quickly speeds up, and is helped along by a great deal of genuinely funny moments that don’t require fan-service and cheap gags to make you laugh. As each of the arcs slips into the next, the show builds upon itself, and truly pays homage to the idea of the musical canon for which it draws its influence.
Characters: The cast is what ultimately makes Kanon such a wonderful show to watch. The protagonist Yuichi is so vastly different from most male characters in his role; it was incredibly refreshing to see. Again, he finds himself in a fairly haremish type setting, yet instead of being that lovable loser that are so often pushed into this role, Yuichi has strength about him from the beginning. He’s kinda of an ass at times, and that’s part of what makes him such a successful character. He’s not one of those timid type of guys you always see who spend the whole show trying to overcome some intense shyness just so they can speak to the ladies of the show, since from the beginning, Yuichi never really has a problem stating his mind, often rudely. That’s not to say he’s always the ladies man, as in many situations even he’s taken aback and unsure of himself, but only in the way that’s natural for someone in his situations. Yuichi is actually incredibly strong and emotional, always wanting to help others, which is a key factor in him helping the women he comes across throughout the series. He’s got his own emotional baggage, so he’s not a perfect character by far, but his flaws are human, as is his strength and that’s why we can empathize with him so much. As for the ladies of Kanon, they’re all quite enjoyable in their own right. I found it rather amazing that I wasn’t annoyed with any of them as the show progressed. Some of them quite “Moe” by nature, but with the emotional baggage you know these girls are carrying around, that’s not really a bad thing. Again, the idea of Moe is simply creating a connection by which the viewer feels a need to see the character protected and kept safe, or at least that’s the most common definition that I’ve seen. With that in mind, this is a show that revolves around you investing your time in watching Yuichi help these ladies as they struggle with their pasts, themselves, or the environment.
Presentation: It’s been said before, but Kyoto Animation really impresses with the visuals of Kanon. The characters are well done, even if all the girls tend to have the super big eyes that are rather cliché amongst anime. But there’s a reason, as animators have always used bigger eyes on their characters to display a sense of innocence, and that’s something that’s useful in a show like this. The scenery is amazing to behold, with snowfall and sunsets that are among some of the more beautiful scenery pieces I’ve seen in anime in a very long while. There’s a specific scene of a water droplet, where the moonlit background is reversed in the water as compared to the scene behind it, it was a visually stunning scene, and only one among many in this show. The artwork was something that really caught me by surprise, and it was a very, very pleasant surprise. The music for the show is incredibly fitting, as you won’t find a lot of catchy J-pop songs here. There’s not much on the soundtrack that you’d really listen to outside of the anime, with the exception perhaps being the opening, but even that’s rather melancholy, but it’s perfect for the mood of the show. Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D is used in a few scenes, in order to try and continue to bring the viewer more into the show. These soft, melodic pieces are throughout, often during many of the more emotional scenes, and I can’t say enough about how well the music was used to highlight this particular series. Music is one of those things that can either distract from a scene, or add to it. It’s obvious here that the creators were at their best in using the music for Kanon in a way that makes you feel more attached to each scene, as you can hear it, but it’s only one of the many layers of depth to any given scene that makes you care.
Enjoyment: I will be honest when I say that the main reason I picked up Kanon was because of various anime forums. In most forums, there’s always a thread about what anime made people cry the most, and Kanon repeatedly pops up, so my curiosity got the better of me. I’m truly happy that it did, because I enjoy virtually every aspect of this show. I’m not the biggest fan of most romantic comedy/harem shows/shoujo but I can enjoy them in their own rights. With Kanon, I simply loved the show from its earlier comedy antics, to the later parts where you are invested in the characters. There were also a handful of truly shocking and surprising scenes, and I can say that Kanon was one of the first times I had to pick my chin up off the floor, as I was caught completely by surprise by a scene; it’s been a long time since that happened. There was a point when I thought the creators were pushing the line a little bit with how much they throw at the viewers, as I thought they were beginning to do things for the sheer value to see how much emotion they could draw out of the audience. Just when I had considered it going too far, they pulled back at the right moment and the show was ultimately not cheapened.
Overall, I really can’t suggest Kanon enough. It’s officially the first true drama of its kind that I’ve given a rating of a 10, so that speaks volumes about how much I enjoyed this show. It’s not particularly action oriented, so the hard-core Shonen fans out there probably won’t enjoy it was much, but perhaps even they will find the cute girls here enough to keep their interest. For anyone else who enjoys a good fantasy/drama/harem comedy with a lot of truly enjoyable characters and a show chocked full of emotion and heart, you definitely can’t go wrong with Kanon. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
Story: The basic story of Higurashi is actually broken down into arcs, as the anime is based on a murder mystery PC game. Thus each arc usually lasts about 3-6 episodes in length before it moves to the next arc, and to a degree, most of the things that occurred in the previous arc seem to have been erased and the show starts over. The basic storyline is always the same though, as it focuses on a group of school kids in the small town of Hinamizawa and usually starts in the time right before the upcoming Watanagashi Festival. Each of the arcs tends to vary from both the point of view that the story is told from, to the tales that unfold during the actual arc. In the first three arcs, Keiichi is the person that we see the story through, but that switches in the other three, as the point of view is switched to different people. The whole thing comes across as rather strange, as you see terrible events unfold in one arc, and then the next episode, all of the characters are right again and things begin a whole new spiral downward. While initially fascinating, it started to drain on me towards the end of the show, as you watch these same, likable characters suffer terribly in arc after arc, only to have the story reset itself so that you can watch it all again, but slightly different. Fortunately, the final arc begins to shed some light into the idea that these arcs aren’t all totally unrelated, and that was an important factor for me. It seemed like I was about at my breaking point with simply getting tired of seeing the same characters degenerate into madness and chaos over and over, only to have the show reset and begin again, when finally there was something different introduced. The only downside is that this comes in the last arc, and obviously leads into the second season, where you’re likely to get more answers. That reprieve comes at just the right moment, as the initial shock value of the show tends to wear off later in the season, and you’re just left wondering why exactly you’re watching the repeated destruction of these characters. In the end, the story is both horrifying and intriguing, and the show throws you a lifeline when you need it most to keep you along for the second half of this ride.
Characters: They are what make Higurashi work, the characters that are so very likable that you can’t help but be rooting for them every single arc that they somehow manage to make it out of that particular story unscathed. The first arc is probably the best in my opinion, because the first few episodes actually come across as being close to your typical school comedy show. Keiichi is an instantly likable protagonist, and the girls are all likable in their own ways. Thus when the insanity starts, it makes it that much more profound as all the characters you liked so much, seem to be spiraling into madness and murder. All of the characters of this show have an intense duality to them, with perhaps the only exception being Mion. The cast in general switches from being likable, silly characters to insane and ruthless, and it’s often jarring and unexpected. This is a show where even the most moe characters have tragic back stories, and repeatedly have tragedy befall upon them. I have to warn potential viewers that while you will likely these characters, it appears to be that the main reason they are so likable is to make it that much more impactful when they have to deal with the terrible things that will befall them later. And there are a lot of terrible things that tend to happen to these characters.
Presentation: Higurashi’s art is something that is often hit or miss, but I suspect that this is largely intentional. Sometimes, the art borders on bad, with cheap animation or sloppy character designs. But those weaker art styles seem to give way in a blink to the crisp, sharper images that often accompany scenes of insanity or brutality. Again, you get the impression that the art was used as another tool here to really make the crazy scenes that much more intense. The music is all around decent and helps add to the atmosphere a lot, and the opening theme which shares the same title as the anime is hauntingly beautiful. The entire intro really gives you some clues as to what kind of ride you’re likely to be in for. From top to bottom, Higurashi isn’t a show that really excels at music or art, but it excels in the concept of using what they have to the best effect. Thus while the art certainly isn’t on part with a great number of other shows that are out there, it uses it’s art better than almost any show I’ve seen in a while, and it gets high marks from me for that.
Overall Enjoyment: Higurashi is a shady, crazy little anime that may leave you wondering why you’re enjoying it, if you have the stomach for it. Certainly, I can’t say this is a show for everyone, as it’s incredibly brutal at times. Some of the scenes are downright disturbing, and that can take away from the show for a lot of people. I found myself really enjoying the show early on, but the repeated effect of seeing these likable characters subjected to repeated madness, murder and torture begins to wear down the enjoyment from this show. As I stated before, the series throws you a lifeline at the end, giving you a ray of hope at the idea that in the second season, things will be revealed and perhaps there is a way beyond all this tragedy. But the first season only begins to hint at that, so the initial love for the show was tempered for me as it continued its relentless assault of brutality and cruelty. It’s probably not as gory as a lot of different anime out there, but I found it often more unpleasant to watch because you like the characters. It’s easy to see violence perpetrated upon characters you don’t care much about, but seeing characters you like do that to each other, is something else.
In the end, I definitely recommend Higuarshi to those people who are looking for something a bit darker, perhaps more deviant. It’s not always an easy or even a fun show to watch. Despite the type of show that it is, it’s still an enjoyable show in its own way, and it’s certainly a unique and interesting anime. read more
May 19, 2009Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid St... (Anime) add
1 of 1 episodes seen
Story – 7/10: The story for Solid State Society starts off some two years after the end of 2nd GIG, with the Major having taken her leave of Section 9, thus the movie leans heavily on Togusa in the beginning. As with the second Ghost in the Shell movie Innocence, we learned that both Togusa and Batou can carry a movie. The problem here is that the Major has really become the soul of the Stand Alone Complex universe, and without her, you always feel that something is missing. Beyond that, the story for Solid State Society is all around pretty decent, but it feels like this should have been the third season, and not a movie. Everything feels rather rushed, and while the story isn’t bad, you can’t help but wonder how much better this could have been if it had been stretched out over a 26 episode season. This movie is better off than the compilation “Laughing Man” and “Individual Eleven” movies, but it just doesn’t live up to the shows, and as a standalone movie, it’s not even in the same ball park as the original movies. It does tie into 2nd GIG and if you felt that the end of that season left you with some questions or wanting more, then SSS is likely to work well for you.
Characters – 9/10: If there’s anything that this movie really has going for it, that would be the way we get to see some of the characters a bit farther down the road. Of the most important is the change to Togusa, who’s stepped up to be the leader of Section 9 now that the Major is gone. It’s good to see him undergo the changes to become a stronger person, as he was always a likable character. On the other side, the Major and Batou generally ponder the meaning of life, having a soul and what their purpose is, much as they always do while being overly badass as they do in generally all Ghost in the Shell products. Much of the side cast is relegated to minor duties again, although there is an awesome scene with Saito. As this is just a movie, you don’t get a lot of character growth in the relatively short span of the film, but there is some and that’s refreshing. These are ultimately characters that are well established though, after two full seasons of SAC, you either love or hate the characters of Section 9 by now. The only real disappointment here is that they didn’t utilize the Prime Minister character as much as one might have hoped. She proved to be a strong character in the second season, and while you see her, she’s pretty much just a cameo. It feels like a slightly missed opportunity, but again that all goes back to the idea that they can’t do as much in a movie as they can in a full blown season.
Presentation – 8/10: There’s certainly nothing wrong with the way SSS is presented, and in many cases, it really shows a lot of visual and audio prowess. The animation is sharp and crisp, and it has all the things going for it that the show had. The downside here is that this is a movie, and you’d expect that the visual production level would be higher. But in the end, it again seems to simply be a long episode. The bar for the animation levels in this franchise were set impossibly high by the simply stunning beauty of Innocence, and SSS doesn’t come close as a movie to reaching that. While its visuals match the show, but don’t surpass it, I actually felt the music took a slight step back. I love pretty much all work by Yoko Kanno, and while I felt that 2nd GIG was among her better sound tracks, I thought that SSS was somewhat lacking. There are a few really enjoyable songs, but they don’t seem to stick in your head as much as some of her previous works. And there are even a few pieces that I simply felt were out of place or jarring. The music isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but once again, it simply fails to live up to what has come before.
Overall Enjoyment – 7/10: Solid State Society is good for giving you some continuation after the events of 2nd GIG ended, and it’s always fun to come back to the enjoyable members of Section 9. But this outing just seemed a bit lackadaisical in comparison to everything before it. Solid State really feels like more of an extended episode than a movie, and with a couple of exceptions, it seemed like it failed to draw me in as much as I’d hoped. I’d say that part of the problem is the lack of a solid antagonist. With the previous two seasons, this team has been tested against fantastic enemies who were brilliant. In this movie, you just never get the sense that the enemy is as strong, and thus it seems to lack overall for that. In the end, it’s enjoyable as a standalone episode, but only if you’re already a fan of the show.
I did enjoy Solid State Society, but that’s likely due to the fact that I’m a fan of the Stand Alone Complex series. As a standalone movie, I don’t know that I’d suggest it to people, as it’s not as strong. It certainly seems to fall well short of the other movies in this franchise, but at the same time, it adds more to those that are fans of the shows. Ultimately, that’s who this is aimed at, so if you enjoyed the GITS:SAC shows, then you should definitely check out this movie. If you’ve never watched the shows, this movie probably isn’t for you. read more
13 of 13 episodes seen
Story: I won’t go into the specifics of the story, but the second season seems to focus less on the dangers to Chidori and instead focuses more on Sousuke’s life as a soldier as well as some new enemies he will have to face. As with the first series, I’ve always thought that FMP is weaker when it tries to focus on the mecha and military aspect of the show. I think the heart of the show is the comedy that usually goes with the pairing of Sousuke and Chidori, and since this season seems to be more focused on the military aspect, I think it loses something for that. On the flip side, there is a lot of growth for the characters in this season, particularly Sousuke who you really wind up liking more by end of the season. The enemies in this particular season are hit or miss, as I enjoyed the twin sisters as villains, but found myself utterly annoyed with the crazy bastard they’ve setup as the main villain. Despite the fact that I think the show once again strays from its real heart and lacks a truly enjoyable antagonist, it’s still a great season overall and one that fans of the series will love none the less.
Characters: I’ve already talked a bit about Chidori and Sousuke. Chidori doesn’t seem to grow as much in this season as does Sousuke, although she faces some challenges and she has some of the best moments in the entire show. This season is really about Sousuke, his growth as a person beyond his military career and his feelings towards Chidori. I think the best scene in the entire season is the haircut scene, which ironically other people have chided for being too slow. That scene really shows the growth of their relationship and again, these two and their relationship is the real core of this show, so the better that is, the better the show is overall. The side characters pretty much all take a back seat in this season though, as almost none of the classmates are even seen, and even Mao and Kurz have very minor roles, but largely that’s due to the shortened season I believe.
Presentation: Overall, there isn’t anything to really complain about when it comes to the visuals and audio of FMP. The animation is solid and the music is all around pretty good. The only downside is that nothing really stands out in either area. The people are all rather bland in terms of anime characters, and the robots are easily among the blandest mecha I’ve ever seen period. It makes sense within the confines of the show that you’d want them to be realistic looking, but they don’t need to be downright boring looking. In the end, the presentation isn’t anything to detract from the show, it just doesn’t add anything great to it either.
Enjoyment: This is where FMP really shines and picks up most of its score with me. Despite the fact that I still think the show waddles in the middle of doing anything in particular exceptionally, it still manages to be really enjoyable. The fight scenes are fun, if not spectacular and the comedy portions are still hysterical. Despite not finding anything in particular to really draw me into FMP, I still found myself loving this season. I think the reason that everyone loves this show is that it has some distinct charm, and that goes a long way.
In the end, FMP: 2nd Raid is another good season to a good show. I can’t classify it as great, as I think that there are shows out there that handle each of its respective parts better. But as a blending of high school comedy and mecha action shows, it works incredibly well. And it’s just a charming show that you always find yourself loving. Fans of FMP won’t need to be told to watch this season, so for everyone else, I can only say that if you give it a shot, this will probably win you over. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
Story: I don’t want to go into too much detail about the story of 2nd GIG, since it’s a key factor in why this is such a great show. The basic premise is the same as the first season really. The key group of Public Security Section 9 is re-established after the events of the first season and is immediately thrown into a new series of crimes dubbed the “Individual Eleven.” The story for this season includes a lot of politics and shady organizations. You also get a greater idea of the state of world affairs in this Ghost in the Shell universe, and I think the show is better off for it. This is a mature, tense and entertaining story from beginning to end, and I found myself enjoying this season more than the first. There are only a few real stand-alone episodes throughout the series, and even those while somewhat divergent from the main plot, often reveal a bit of background on our favorite group of anti-terrorists. There is one rather mediocre romantic type sub-plot that I won’t go into great detail about, but I had a hard time buying into it with great enthusiasm. I think it added to the character, but it felt contrived, and seemed somewhat out of place. Not enough for me to hate it though, just to think it was somewhat awkward. Other than that, the rest of the story is simply superb.
Characters: Going into any Ghost in the Shell, you always assume that for the most part, the characters are established and you’re not going to get the kind of character development that you might in other shows, and this is true for 2nd GIG. These people are already bad ass, they’re incredibly good at what they do from the start, so you don’t get that progression that you might in other series where the characters start weaker and then progress to become stronger. Here, they start and finish strong. There’s development, and that’s a welcome change, but on a whole, Section 9 isn’t going to be radically different at the end of the show than it is at the beginning. That’s not a bad thing, because I’ve always felt that the main character, Motoko, is easily one of the strongest female leads in all of anime. She’s incredibly sexy, but beyond that, she’ brilliant and strong. It’s interesting to watch a character that’s as blatantly sexualized as the Major use that to her advantage when she has to. In the end, she’s easily one of the smartest and strongest heroines around, and you have to respect her for that. Her immediate cast is also very likable. Batou is a strong enough character that he could likely carry a show on his own, as was seen in the second Ghost in the Shell movie. Togusa, being the only real human character in Section 9 continues to give the viewers that gateway into the lives of this cyborg team, allowing us to step into his shoes. The rest of Section 9, while relatively minor characters, continue to add a lot to the show, even as side characters they’re each strong in their own regards, and a few get their own episodes to flush them out more, particularly Saito and Paz. Even new characters add a great deal to the show, with the new Prime Minister being a great addition to the cast for this season. I don’t think she had to be a particularly strong character, but the decision to make her one was well done and it added a lot to the show. Overall, the characters in this show are truly top notch, and they move the already great plot along even better. Plus, there may not be a group of more likable characters in all of anime than the Tachikoma’s, you simply have to love them.
Animation: It’s hard not to rave about the quality of the animation for any of the Ghost in the Shell, and 2nd GIG is no different. Clean and crisp character animation is quality throughout the show. There are the occasional times that the quality takes a slight dip, but given the level that it’s at most of the time, the budget had to be incredible and thus the occasional dip is to be expected. Inside of cyber space is incredibly imaginative and colorful, which brings a lot of vivid color to what is otherwise a very dreary palette. If there’s a complaint to be had about the art style, it’s the strange outfits that Motoko sometimes wears. She has this strange bodysuit/shoulder shirt/really low-cut jeans outfit that just comes across as a blatant excuse to try and dress her even sexier than usual, and borders on blatant fan-service. I’m not overly against fan-service, but it just seems out of place for her. But that’s a personal gripe, and not a major one. I’m sure there are arguments for why she’d wear such clothing, so I don’t hold it against the show. In the end, I think everything visually about the show is really top notch, even if occasionally it tends to border on the very dreary, that’s simply the vision of this future.
Music: Once again, I feel that Yoko Kanno really steps up and provides a score that helps accentuate what is already a fantastic show. The opening song “Rise,” makes the intro one of my favorites in a very, very long time. It’s not often that I’ll watch the intro to a show more than once or twice during a season, but I almost never skipped the intro to this season because I just enjoyed it that much. Other wonderful songs include the return of Monochrome from the first one, plus Cyberbird and Torukia. This is a score that’s beautiful in every aspect, but there’s already been heaps of praise given to Kanno-san for her work on Ghost in the Shell, so all I can say is that it lives up to the hype.
Overall: This has probably been the best show I’ve watched in the past 6 months at least. It’s mature and deep, between the political plots and the introspection on the meaning of individuality and once again reflecting on the meaning of having a soul. At the same time, it’s also very exciting, with a number of great action sequences that really keep the tension high. From beginning to end, there isn’t much about Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG that I didn’t love, and I easily give it a 10 and recommend it to anyone who likes sci-fi, cyber punk or anime in general. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
That’s the question that I had to ask myself as I finished watching Sousei no Aquarion, because at its core, this is a show that is fundamentally flawed in a number of areas, but at the same time, I found myself enjoying it throughout. Thus I have to wonder if it’s a good show, even if I don’t think the individual parts are good.
The story of Aquarion isn’t that much different from most of the other giant robot shows you may have seen over the years. Humans are being harvested by a race of beings called the Shadow Angels, and the only method they have to fight back are three ships called Vectors, which have to be piloted by Elementals, and can join together to create the giant robot Aquarion. The show doesn’t stray far from convention at this point, as it’s very similar to other shows like Voltron and the likes, where you have individual fighters who join to create one giant robot. Outside of the giant robot portion, you have the character interactions, which focus on the elementals and their personal baggage, as well as a 12,000 year old love story due to reincarnation. The story isn’t terrible, but it misses a few steps along the way. The reincarnation angle could have worked great, if more than 2 characters had memories from their past lives. But since only the 2 seem important, the rest of the characters simply make up side-story elements, and thus never have the weight behind them that the main characters do. Beyond that, the Shadow Angels, while interesting for villains, don’t really hit the cord to make you despise them, and thus the show lacks a lot of punch. In the end, the story is sound for creating a giant robot show, but it’s certainly not a selling point, and truly falls short of better shows in the genre such as RahXephon and NGE.
When it comes to the characters themselves in Aquarion, I find myself rather torn. One the one hand, the interaction between them is generally fun, and adds a lot to the show. The problem is that the characters themselves are often entirely unlikable. The main character, Apollo, is shown throughout the entire show being bestial and nasty, due to the fact that he had to live a hard life as a child. That’s all well and good, but you’d like the character to evolve beyond that at some point, and become better all around. You see hints that such evolution is happening, but then they throw that all away by having him pick his nose, or do something else childish and disgusting at every opportunity. Sadly, he’s still more likable than the female protagonist Silvia, who spends most of the show having to get past her brother issues and the fact that she’s a spoiled princess. Other side characters range from the strangely out of place soccer player (who still wears his uniform) to the rather cliché mopey, I have only bad luck but everyone loves me, to the I’m cute but helpless moe type character. Despite all the flaws of the characters, their interactions are still fun and enjoyable, and they do make the show better. I think despite their flaws, these are rather charming characters that I just couldn’t make myself dislike.
The animation of Aquarion is pretty much all over the place. Generally, the animation is pretty good, nothing spectacular, but it’s fairly sharp. There are a handful of episodes that just aren’t as good, but they normally don’t stray too far into the terrible territory, unless they do it on purpose. My problem is again with the implementation of the CG, such as the robots. I just never enjoyed the CG aspect, and I didn’t particularly care for the design of the Aquarion, which left all of the giant robot fight scenes particularly displeasing from an aesthetic reason. When it comes to the artistic design, I found the humans to be relatively bland. They look like any other gathering of humans that you’d find in any other giant robot show. Where the show ventures off and becomes creative is the Shadow Angels, and I found their artistic design to be quite enjoyable. The character Otoha, with wing like arms and multiple eyes was truly interesting from an artistic perspective. The end result is a mishmash of animation, that is sometimes striking and fascinating, other time conventional and fine, mixed with bad CG that drains away a lot of that credibility.
If there’s one area that Aquarion caught me completely by surprise, it’s the music of the show. This is a truly hidden little gem of a sound track, but in retrospect, that comes as no surprise. I didn’t know the composer when I was watching the show, but I found myself enjoying a lot of the rather catchy lyrical songs, as well as truly loving the classical pieces, particularly when the piano was used. It came as no surprise to me when I learned that this was another soundtrack composed by Yoko Kanno, so my natural love for the music made immediate sense. Truly, this is the high point of the show, and I always found that the use of music here made things have more emotional impact than they should have, but that’s a power that Ms. Kanno has always had.
Beyond all the parts of Aquarion, the show is quirky and that both works for it and detracts from it. I don’t understand the reasoning behind the women experiencing orgasmic feelings when they powered up the Aquarion. That always felt weird and out of place in this show. Also, this is a truly “Rinse and Repeat” show if I’ve ever seen one. About 80% of the episodes of this show can be broken down into the following steps:
1. The show starts with a little character interaction, usually setting up which character will have the breakthrough moment in the fight this episode.
2. The enemy will attack, and three elementals will be sent out to fight them.
3. The good guys will get overconfident and have to confront some new enemy attack that they don’t know how to beat; 1-2 of the elementals will likely get knocked out at this point.
4. The character from the earlier interaction will realize they have some special talent or insight into this particularly enemy.
5. Cue catchy Yoko Kanno victory music
6. The good guys beat said enemy
7. There might be a little post fight character interaction, and then the episode ends.
That’s pretty much the way almost every single episode goes, with the exception of the first and last couple of episodes where they move things along quicker for storyline purposes. Beyond that, some of the episodes are incredibly random for a giant robot type of show. There are episodes about dreams, vampires, dieting and awful animation (I swear they were on serious drugs for episode 17).
When you look at any particular area of Aquarion, with the exception of the music, each aspect of the show seems horribly flawed, and one would think it’s a terrible show. But somehow when you pull together all these flawed parts, this show has a great amount of charm and I couldn’t help myself, I found that I liked the show. It’s not great, and it doesn’t stand up against the better shows in the genre, but if you have the time and you can overlook those flaws, Aquarion might just be able to win you over with its charm as well. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
The characters are the real draw of this particular show. The main character Balsa is quite possibly the quintessentially perfect heroine. The beautiful, middle aged spear wielder comes across as powerful and skilled right off the bat. By the time the final episode comes to a close, Balsa has proven that she’s more than just a powerfully skilled warrior though. Her skill and strength with the spear are tempered by her level headedness, her intelligence and wit. Add to that a deep sense of right, and a motherly instinct towards the young, and the whole package is undeniably one of the best new characters to grace anime in a long while, as well as perhaps one of the best anime female role-models ever in my opinion. Some fans could argue that she’s too good, as she really doesn’t have any character flaws that I can think of. But that’s the way the cast is in this show. Chagum and Tanda are very similar characters. They may not have the same skills with a weapon and fighting that Balsa has, but they each have deep inner strength. If you were to have to surmise the general theme of this particular show, it’d be selflessness, as that’s the trait that comes to be associated with so many of the characters.
The only downside to the show is the real lack of an antagonist. Balsa is a truly masterful warrior, and while we get to see a few glimpses of how great she is, the series doesn’t fall back on fighting to keep the viewers entertained, which means there aren’t a great deal of fight scenes. That’s a shame, because the ones that you are given are incredible. Production I.G. really made the fights with the spear a thing of beauty. The fights are pure art, and one of the few complaints against this show is that there just aren’t enough of them. But that again falls back to the lack of an antagonist in the show. Much of the series revolves around fighting fate, growing to accept ones responsibilities and maturing. Those battles aren’t ones that can be won in a fight. Some might complain that it’s a rather slow series, and in the middle it’s hard to argue against that. There’s nothing wrong with a more intellectual series at all, but when your main character is one like Balsa, you really crave more fighting, just to see her in action.
Aside from the characters, the presentation of the show is top notch. Beautiful and scenic views are presented a lot in the early and later episodes, when you’re introduced to new places. The middle struggles with this a bit as well, as the show hunkers down in one location for a bit. But the animation of the characters is smooth and quality throughout. The music is good, but doesn’t stick with you after you’ve finished watching the show. Sweeping musical and orchestra portions do well to highlight a lot of the development going on and fit the time and location well, but this isn’t a show that really lends itself to having a lot of catchy music that people will be singing afterwards.
In the end, Seirei no Moribito is a truly fantastic show. The story is a solid one, although it tends to lag a bit in the middle, and lacks an antagonist that the viewers will want to see the heroes overcome. As a more coming of age/fighting your destiny type of story, this show works great. It’s a shame we didn’t get more scenes of Balsa fighting with her spear, as they rank amongst some of the best anime fights I’ve ever seen. When it’s all said and done, Moribito leaves you with a good feeling, and a sadness that the journey is over. Hopefully, as it’s based on a series of novels, we’ll see Balsa again in the future for more travels. read more