As this is a review of a sequel, I believe that the reader is already familiar/has watched the first season of Code Geass.
Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch R2 is both more of the same and yet a departure for the series in several ways. On one hand, it’s often even more ridiculous and over the top than its predecessor, and on the other surprisingly dramatic, with an emotional resonance not found in the first season. This results in the show feeling more like a reboot/reimagining of the series rather than a simple continuation of the storyline. Now to be sure, many of the classic Geass
moments of the first season are present, however, this time around things feel very different in ways that are superior to the original even if R2 itself can't quite top the overall impact of its predecessor. Some will feel that R2 wasn't as good as the first season but it does live up to the Code Geass franchise.
Story: Code Geass R2 continues the story of Lelouch Lamperouge and the Black Knights as they continue their fight against the Holy Britannian Empire. We are introduced to more characters including new allies, enemies, and Nightmare Frames. As the series progresses new factions are introduced and new alliances formed, with plot twists abound. The plot twists in R2 are even more abundant, and at times even more implausible and unexpected than the first season, with every episode essentially ending in a cliffhanger. However, the characters this time around are far more likable, even if they are so numerous that many of them, unfortunately, end up being underdeveloped. And while the show starts off slow, the plot eventually moves forward very fast and while stumbles somewhat near the climax, manages to pull off a remarkably well-crafted resolution at the end. Fans who were disappointed by the way the first season ended will undoubtedly be satisfied with the bizarre ending of R2.
Characters: Here's a series that has real emotional depth and dramatic resonance. Now to be clear, by no means is this a primary focus of R2, however, the actions and motivations of the characters and the events themselves seem to have greater meaning and purpose. The range of emotions felt by the characters is better conveyed: we feel their desperation and determination, their sadness and joy, their anger and regret. Characters that seemed so empty or clichéd in the first season are given greater depth and expression, with exceptions of course. Lelouch, in particular, is a far more interesting character this time around, and his inner conflict and desire for self-resolution. He'll do things that you wouldn't expect him to do. Also, his changing relationships with his comrades and enemies alike act as a drive that propels the show from a mere continuation into a rejuvenation of the series. Lelouch fans will definitely find him more interesting and amazing as well as the other characters. Especially Kallen.
Art & Animation: SUNRISE and CLAMPE have definitely outdone itself. The visuals of R2 are not just better than the original, but are also some/one of the best I've seen (though somewhat expected considering them using an extraordinary amount of budget.) R2 is definitely more flashier and colorful than ever before, the high quality of the visuals consistently impresses from one episode to the next. The characters and backgrounds are incredibly detailed and the large-scale action sequences are spectacular to watch. The only gripe I have is that the animation itself often lacks fluidity, especially during some of the more hectic action sequences. This didn't really take much away from the actual quality of the visuals but it is rather noticeable nevertheless. Actually, with the action and everything going on, you won't even notice the lack of fluidity. And while SUNRISE doesn't quite stand at the absolute top-tier level in terms of overall animation quality, R2 represents their best work since their old age of shows like Cowboy Bebop. In terms of the animation, Code Geass R2 sure have one of the best this year.
Sound: The audio is just as impressive as the visuals, with great sound effects and the solid voice acting (Jun Fukuyama, Ami Koshimizu, Yukana, etc) you've come to expect from the first season. The music, on the other hand, is more of a mixed bag. The soundtrack itself is solid, a score that is well suited for the mixture of tones that a series like Geass goes through. The theme songs, conversely, are merely mediocre and all but one remains memorable. The pop theme surely is one of my favorite having listen to the songs many times.
Enjoyment: While watching, you'll be hooked onto the episodes and you might even finish the whole series in less than two days. This show will leave you wanting more and more till you have completed it. You might even want to re-watch the series.
Overall: Code Geass R2 is a series that almost every Code Geass fan will be happy to watch - for newer fans watching the first season is recommended. While its approach is often divergent from the first, it shares enough absurdities and overindulgence that those who didn't like the first series will most likely detest this one. Yet for all its flashiness, its superficiality and its dangerously complex back-story, this is still a far more entertaining series than most of the other shows out there. Again, Code Geass R2 proves that entertainment doesn't always have to be meaningful, just enjoyable. If you didn't enjoy the first season, then you most likely will not enjoy R2.
Dec 12, 2009
Neon Genesis Evangelion has been known to divide audiences. And despite its love for giant robot battles and generous use of fan service, Neon Genesis Evangelion is unarguably one... of the most influential sagas in modern anime. In the history of anime no series has sparked more debate than Evangelion. For every viewer who's enthralled by its mix of classic anime action, convoluted philosophy, psychological angst, and religious imagery, there's another who finds it pretentious and ponderous.
If you are unfamiliar with Neon Genesis Evangelion and have yet to watch it for the first time, you're in for a real treat it truly is an emotional ... roller coaster. On the surface, Neon Genesis Evangelion is a basic mecha series with a host of teenage pilots controlling monstrous beasts called Eva’s. The lead character is a reluctant hero trying to live up to his father's expectations while saving humanity at the same time.
Story: The story of Evangelion primarily begins in 2000 with the "Second Impact", a global cataclysm which almost completely destroyed Antarctica and led to the deaths of half the human population of Earth. The Impact is believed by the public at large and even most of Nerv to have been the impact of a meteorite landing in Antarctica, causing devastating tsunamis and a change in the Earth's axial tilt (leading to global climate change) and subsequent geopolitical unrest, nuclear war (such as the nuking of Tokyo), and general economic distress. Later, Second Impact is revealed to be the result of contact with and experimentation on the first of what are collectively dubbed the Angels: Adam. The experiments were sponsored by the mysterious organization Seele, and carried out by the research organization Gehirn.
In the year 2010, Gehirn had accomplished a number of its scientific and engineering goals and corporately changed into the paramilitary organization Nerv which is headquartered in Tokyo-3, a militarized civilian city located on one of the last dry sections of Japan; Nerv's central mission is to locate the remaining Angels predicted by Seele, and to destroy them. However, Nerv has its own secret agenda, as directed by its Machiavellian commander Gendo Ikari: the Human Instrumentality Project, which, according to Gendo in episode 25, is the task of uniting all human minds into one global spiritual entity. Associated with Nerv is the Marduk Institute, which has the task of selecting the pilots for the Evas, the most capable being children conceived after the Second Impact (14 year olds). The institute consists of Commander Ikari, and Nerv's chief scientist Ritsuko Akagi; supporting the two are 108 companies which are all revealed to be ghost companies.
Story does start off quick with a bit action in the beginning. It then becomes quite dull with how the main character acts. But by the time Asuka makes her first appearance, the show has kicked into high gear for a stunning run of near-perfect episodes.
Characters: The cast of Characters in NGE are varied, and through the course of the series the majority of them are emotionally ripped apart and left for dead. NGE holds back nothing. For most animes, a flaw of a character is usually ironed out before the end. But NGE is different. Weak characters show moments of strength, but ultimately remain weak. Arrogant characters show moments of humility but ultimately remain egotistical. Such is the nature of the series - the characters definitely go through challenging experiences that test their flaws, but they do not seem to overcome them. One reason for this may be that the challenges the characters go through in NGE are treated as though they were realistic stressful conditions that mentally damage the characters since there is always bad collateral damage even with success.
Art & Animation: While the animation looks a bit dated by today's standards, NGE is still a powerful cerebral onslaught and an audiovisual force that won't soon be forgotten.
There are just so many things Evangelion does right that elevate it beyond pedestrian anime. The world is so alive and well-developed, right down to the smallest details (like the way cars run on batteries instead of gasoline, as one would expect in a future following global disaster that would limit access to fossil fuels). Even the minor characters, like classmates Toji and Kensuke, are remarkably fleshed out. The way Misato's mature (but dysfunctional) relationship with Kaji contrasts with the teens' awkward, tentative steps towards romance is brilliant. In other words, Evangelion pulls off the remarkable trick of feeling tantalizingly real, an exceedingly rare accomplishment in anime (and animation in general).
Sound: NGE is a show of extremes. Ranging from scenes of palpable, visceral power that inspire shock and awe, to the most quietly serene, surreal, and beautifully touching moments. These scenes are woven together as fine and eloquently as the Beethoven Symphony they play in episode 24 itself. And like that symphony, even though the parts are outstanding, the whole is much greater than the sum.
Enjoyment: Without spoiling the show for those of you new to join, the replay/enjoyment value on this one is off the charts if you enjoy complex dramas and well written anime shows. Further, in the thirteen years this one has been out, you can trace almost every anime show using giant robots, psychological thrillers, and hidden cabals within society running things from behind the scenes back to this one. Sure, it builds on shows that came before it but it was more of a revolutionary step in terms of overall complexity and quality than it was a smaller evolutionary step; leading fans to discuss its nuances over and over.
Overall: Evangelion is definitely in a class by itself, and it is required viewing for any anime fan. Not just another giant robot/sexy teenager anime, Evangelion is a trendsetter and a pillar of creative achievement. While it won't answer many of those lingering questions you might have in the end, it does set up the finale, End of Evangelion, a movie that presents a more coherent ending which makes a lot more sense than the last two episodes did.
Make it a priority to watch this and see for yourself what NGE means to you. After you do, make sure you watch the movie, End of Evangelion.
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Nov 17, 2008
Let me say that The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is one of the best and most popular series of 2006. It's a strange, eccentric, funny, and sometimes touching show that seems to be a mix of comedy, sci-fi, mystery, and a fourth genre that doesn't seem to fit into any previously existing categories. Perhaps we should call it Haruhism? Though I guess you could say it's main focus is comedy, the randomness of the story proves that it exceeds at various other genres as well. It is deeply philosophical and yet silly in concept, with story telling that reeks of slice-of-life and yet doesn't quite ... fit into that mold. In fact, it's difficult to fit Haruhi Suzumiya into any mold at all since while it seems to fulfill the attributes required for a comedy or sci-fi/mystery series, it doesn't really fit any of those. Rather it is something else entirely. Perhaps this is the reason why the show can be so enjoyable and yet so incomprehensible at the same time.
Story: It’s difficult to discuss the plot in Haruhi Suzumiya since the way the plot is presented and the story told differs depending on which version is being watched. In the original television airing, the episodes were presented out of order, and hence it developed its own unique form of plot development in which the pieces of the “main storyline” were scattered across the 14 total episodes in a non-linear fashion. Therefore, it became kind of a puzzle for the viewer to take those pieces and reconstruct them into a coherent whole. As the series was released on DVD, the original episode order was used as opposed to the original broadcast order. As a result, the story is more coherent, as the “main storyline” was presented in a linear and more or less comprehensible manner. And yet, the plot is still quite difficult to follow, especially if you’re not one to pay close attention to small details. Basically, the story revolves around an eccentric high school freshman named Haruhi Suzumiya and her club, the SOS brigade. Most of the story occurs with the consistent background narratives of Kyon, Haruhi’s lazy and cynical classmate who happens to be the only one who manages to engage her in meaningful conversation. Unwillingly dragged along for the ride, the story is actually told from Kyon’s perspective as his narratives often show his view of the situation as well as showing his personal insight into the story and the characters.
Characters: Haruhi’s other recruits include Mikuru Asahina, a pretty, well-endowed sophomore who also happens to be a time traveler from the future, Itsuki Koizumi, a male transfer student who is an esper that possess supernatural abilities, and Yuki Nagato, an organic life contact-purpose humanoid interface created by an alien existence called the Data Integration Thought Entity. Of course, none of this is known to Haruhi as the reason why the three of these extraordinary characters are gathered in one place was because Haruhi herself isn’t exactly human, and her influence in the world around her was greater than she could ever imagine. Without spoiling anything, it’s safe to say that there is more to Haruhi than meets the eye. If you’re already lost or confused, don’t worry, as it would seem that confusion and incredulity was exactly the intention. In fact, we’re almost expected to view these incredible events, and like Kyon, be completely bewildered by, and yet completely accepting of them. This is one of the many eccentricities of Haruhi that are almost impossible to explain with words. Of course, I should probably mention the various comedic situations, including some very moe ones involving our favorite cosplayer Mikuru-chan, the short-lived but exciting sci-fi action sequences, and finally the few genuinely touching scenes involving our drama queen Haruhi and her trusty companion Kyon. There is even a pair of episodes that play out like a classic western murder mystery. Haruhi Suzumiya is truly a mish-mash of genres: pop-culture-inspired, sci-fi otaku, mystery-romantic comedy . . . but without the romance.
Art & Animation: It also helps that the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a very impressive visual experience. Produced by the now highly-acclaimed Kyoto Animation, who is known for other works such as Air and Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid, the animation is bright and colorful, smooth and crisp. The use of CGI in a few places is a little questionable but well-conceived and not overdone. Though the action sequences aren’t entirely commonplace and often short-lived they are beautifully directed and animated with impressive fluidity and fidelity. Then of course there’s the mind-blowing Haruhi dance, the little number that Haruhi and her four SOS Brigade club members engage in during the ending sequence.
Sound: The voice acting is superb, with Kyon’s voice being especially suited for his character. Newcomer Aya Hirano also proves her talent through her expressive voicing of Haruhi, which by all means is a difficult character to voice. The English dub is also top-notch with big names like Wendee Lee (voicing Haruhi) and Crispin Freeman (voicing Kyon). Johnny Bosch also does a great job voicing Koizumi. While not quite at the level of a de-facto standard like Cowboy Bebop, the English voice cast is better than most and given the difficulty of the material, they do a splendid job. As such, a second viewing with the dub is definitely recommended since it also has the secondary effect of making the show a little easier to understand. The music, while mostly forgettable compared to the rest of the show, is nevertheless well done, especially the opening and ending themes sung by Aya Hirano.
Enjoyment: At this point, it’s pretty easy to gather that I wasn’t really all that impressed with any of the specific elements of the show in particular. The puns can be funny sure, but some work really well, and some just fall flat. Even Mikuru’s moe moments, which seem to be a no-brainer success, don’t always work out particularly well—if anything, she’s trying a little too hard. The storyline is confusing, and even when watching it in the proper order, one still isn’t sure what exactly is happening. The techno jargon in particular may get a little annoying for those who aren’t too into the sci-fi aspect of the show. And while we get a fair amount of character development for Kyon and Haruhi, the remaining characters seem a little flat. Moreover, while the mixing of the episodes created a different storytelling experience, it added little to the show other than increased confusion. But alas, the above are just minor kinks when compared to the main problem with the show: it just didn’t resonate with me even though I had wholeheartedly wanted it to. Yes, I laughed at the jokes, yes I chuckled at and felt sorry for Mikuru’s misfortunes, and yes I enjoyed Haruhi’s capricious obsessions. Yet, as hard as I wanted it to, the show just didn’t draw me into it nearly as well as it could have. If there is any gaping problem with Haruhi, that problem is a lack of charm. If those were fixed/added, this series would have gotten a ten from me.
Overall: Nevertheless, Haruhi is one of those shows in which the whole is definitely not equal to the sum of its parts. Overall, the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is an impressive accomplishment. It’s entertaining, fun, and sometimes thought-provoking. Not often do we see a show that so obviously caters to the fans and yet still manages to provide an interesting, albeit overly complex storyline. And while it’s missing a certain endearing quality, it certainly has its moments of brilliance—definitely not a show to be missed.
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Aug 31, 2008
Code Geass is one of my favorite anime. Why? It's filled with so much action, bombastic dialogue, and has such eye-catching visuals that it tops the charts in entertainment value. This is an exciting and epic anime and it's over the top.
For some people, the plot, characters, and music alone is bad enough to make the show unwatchable. For others, the high action, flashy animation, and drama will be more than enough to make the show a favorite of all time though I like everything about Code Geass.
Story: Lelouch Lamperouge appears to be a typical high school student at Ashford Academy in the ... Britannian controlled Area 11 (formerly named Japan.) But he's actually a prince in the Britannian imperial family, and seventeenth in line to the throne. He develops a hatred for the emperor of Britannia and the entire imperial establishment, vowing to one day destroy them for the death of his mother and cripple of his sister. After an encounter with a mysterious young woman named C.C., Lelouch gains the power of Geass, which grants him the ability to force anyone to do what he wishes. With this ability, Lelouch becomes a mysterious figure named Zero and begins his battle against the Britannian Empire.
Code Geass have too many loose and cliff hanging ends. The end are always left unexplained, leaving the viewer with questions not only about various subplots but also about several key elements of the storyline. However, what makes up for this is the plot and character developments. Every episode is surprising and leave you eager to watch the next episode.
It seems Code Geass mainly focus on the drama, emotion, and the heart-breaking moments. Geass ends up being not so much a story with a certain plot and characters but rather a series of exciting, exaggerated but well-crafted, incredulous and definitely memorable scenes.
Characters: The characters, are so great and awesome that it's hard to stop enjoying them. There are characters that are a goody too shoe, outright intolerable that will make you want to strangle and kill them off the show. The characters are all so great that something unexpected might happen to them. There are also characters that are naive, filled with too much hate and/or love but in the end, you'll have a character you like or maybe even love. My favorite character, of course, are C.C., Kallen, and Lelouch.
Art & Animation: Another good thing about Code Geass is its high production values and colorful animation. The character designs, created by CLAMP, are great and well drawn. The animation may not be great but it is detailed, vivid, and lively. The fights aren't as smooth or fluid as it could be but it's flashy, colorful, which is very much fitting considering the nature of the series.
Sound: The voice acting also plays a role in the show's success. Characters like Zero and Suzaku may be outrageous or cliched but their voice actors fit the characters so well that they are able to sell the characters. One of my favorite voice actor, Jun Fukuyama, does a great job playing the key character of Lelouch/Zero. His performance, especially how well he change from the carefree high school student to the more sinister and manipulative rebel is vital to keeping the series enjoyable and entertaining. Fukuyama is usually playing two characters and does it absolutely convincingly. There's nothing to complain about of the music either as the background music is very good and it fits right in it. The openings for Code Geass are my favorite. It's very paced and exciting.
Enjoyment: I've seen Geass more than 5 times in a row already. (Not counting season 2) This is a nice, great anime. With the non-stop action, you'll be wanting to see which side will win and lose. For one moment you can be smiling, then crying the next. Happens to me sometimes.
Overall: Code Geass is a awesome anime that will surely gather different opinions from viewers and other reviewers other than myself. I've seen and heard a lot of people saying SUNRISE has done an awesome job and it's not because of the use of mecha, action or drama, but rather how effectively it appeals to that certain aspect of anime that is not often addressed and yet is one of the main purposes of anime: entertainment. If your main interest in anime is in the quality of the storytelling or the characters, then Geass is probably not for you. However, if you're in it to have fun or for some good laughs, then take a look at this anime. You wont be disappointed. Indeed Geass is a rare accomplishment.
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