Archive for July, 2011

Lobster Quadrille Anime Review: Slayers

Note: The following review is part 0f a 5-part series covering every season of the Slayers TV series.  This review covers the first season: The Slayers

Genre: Fantasy/Comedy

Distributor: FUNimation (streams on Hulu and Youtube as well as FUNimation’s home page)

Creator/Studio: Hajime Kanzaka and Rin Araizumi/J.C. Staff

Rating: 10/10  Recommended Age: 10+

No. of episodes: 26

Summary: Lina Inverse is a sorceress who is feared by evildoers around the world.  She’ll save the day…for a price.  She’s accompanied by various heroes in quests.

Review: I love this series! It starts out like a parody of the fantasy genre (in fact, it was originally created as a parody of  Dungeons and Dragons-style board games), but unlike some parodies, it actually has a story and not just jokes.  The heroes are great subversions of what we normally see in fantasy.

Lina is anything but virtuous–she’s only a sorceress for money and food.  If she helps you, she expects a reward.  She’s easily annoyed and very careless with her magic.  Her speech during the opening song pretty much sums her up, making the song an “I want/I am” song: “Where monsters rampage, I’m there to take them down!  Wherever treasure glitters, I’m there to claim it!  Wherever evil rises to face me, victory WILL BE MINE!”

Next is Gourry, the only hero who can’t use magic (because he’s too stupid).  Gourry wields a magical sword called the Sword of Light (the sword is literally made of light).  He’s basically the team’s muscle and he and Lina argue a lot.

Zelgadis is kind of the show’s lone wolf.  I’m already treading into spoiler territory just mentioning him here.  I’ll just say he goes through a good deal of character development and leave it at that. He’s the most stoic member of the team and pretty much the Spock of the cast.

Amelia acts and seems as though she’s from a Sailor Moon-style show, right down to the speeches.  She’s an amateur sorceress who often idolizes Lina. Of all the heroes, she’s the only one who seems the most virtuous, that is until we meet Slyphiel.

Sylphiel is the team’s “white mage”.  She is a shrine maiden and a childhood friend of Gourry  (she’s also quite smitten for him, but he never seems to notice). I found her an enjoyable character because she is kind and has a selfless zeal.  I just wish she wasn’t introduced so late because it seemed like she joined at the last minute just so we could have a team of five heroes. (However, she turns up in most of the following seasons, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much) She’s clearly meant to be the heart of the group, admonishing Lina when she uses black magic and acts in an unheroic manner.

The villain is Rezzo, the red priest.  His sly smiles makes him quite creepy, and he’s very devious and arrogant.  He spends a lot of time lurking in the shadows, like any main villain should.

The show’s only flaw is that it doesn’t focus on plot much.  It does have shonen roots, so there’s a considerable amount of filler. However, the filler was so funny that I wasn’t really bothered by it.  It is worth bringing up, though.

Music/Score: The opening and closing are sung by popular Japanese VA Megumi Hayashibara, who holds the record for most voices by a Japanese voice actress.  They are both very catchy.

Sub/Dub: Either way is excellent.  (I actually alternated between the two) I recommend the sub because Lina’s voiced by Megumi Hayashibara. The dub’s cast is also great, with Lisa Ortiz playing Lina’s emotional range very well and Crispin Freeman is in top form as Zelgadis.  The biggest surprise for me was that Amelia is dubbed by Veronica Taylor for FUNimation’s dub. Veronica Taylor is best known for her role as Ash Ketchum in Pokemon. I had no idea she’d done other roles and honestly didn’t know it was her until I saw the credits.

Violence: (5/10) Some fantasy violence and slapstick reminiscent of Looney Tunes.  I also saw some scenes where spells do cause some bloody moments. It’s not gory, though.

Language: (2/10) Mild, nothing above PG level.

Sexuality: (3/10) Gourry often criticizes Lina’s breast size.  There’s also a sequence in episode 17 where Gourry is in drag and the costume fools both a man and an effeminate dragon (who’s actually male.)

Nudity: (2/10): A few bathing scenes, usually involving Lina.  Most of the time, the details are obscured, though.

Religion: (4/10) The show uses Sailor Moon and Final Fantasy-style magic and Lina is often criticized by Sylphiel for using black magic against her foes.  As someone who’s enjoyed these kinds of stories, this didn’t bother me.

Related Media: Hoo boy! Slayers has quite a few sequels, each one considered a separate season: Slayers Next, Slayers Try, Slayers Revolution, and Slayers Evolution-R.  It was based on light novels. There’s also mangas, OVAs (which I can’t cover at the present time because I can’t watch them legally for free), and Japanese-only video games.

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Lobster Quadrille Anime Review: Kurau Phantom Memory

Title: Kurau Phantom Memory (クラウ ファントムメモリー)

Genre: Sci-fi/Drama

Studio/Creator: Bones/Hiroshi Tominaga and Tomomi Ozaki

Distributor: FUNimation. Also streaming on Youtube in dubbed format.

Rating: 10/10 Recommended Age: 10+

No. of episodes: 24

Summary: Kurau is a little girl whose father was researching an energy source called Rynax. While she is watching the experiment, Kurau is infused with the energy and it takes over her body.  Because of this union, Kurau now has light-based powers, such as flight, energy blasts, and intangibility.  She also tells her father that Rynax live in pairs and hers has yet to arrive. We now fast-forward a decade, and Kurau is now a mercenary. This is when her “pair” arrives–a direct copy of herself at the time of the experiment, who she names Christmas.  She is also now on the run from the GPO, an organization that is hunting down all “Ryna-sapiens” (humans infused with Rynax powers).

Review: This is one of the sweetest titles I’ve ever watched.  What I like best is how character-driven the story is.  There is a great dichotomy between Kurau and Christmas.  Christmas is every bit as naive as Kurau was at twelve.  Kurau, on the other hand, has all the experience that Kurau lacks.  It’s quite similar to the relationship between a mother and her child.  Another interesting dichotomy exists between former GPO agent Doug and current GPO agent Ayaka.  Doug sees Kurau and Christmas as actual people and attempts to help them keep as low a profile as possible. Ayaka, on the other hand, sees them as targets and a menace.  I truly enjoyed this title and would recommend it to any anime fan.

Music/Score: The music is very poignant.  Although I wouldn’t call it spectacular, I did like it.  Sometimes it’s nice to have music that just establishes the mood without trying to stand out.

Sub/Dub: I was only able to watch the dub, which was very well done.  Jessica Boone in particular was adorable as Christmas.

Violence: 3/10. For the most part, this is very mild. SPOILER: In a late episode, we meet a Ryna-sapien who has lost his pair and attempts to make Christmas a replacement. After Christmas refuses, he goes off to be alone and attempts suicide.

Language: 2/10. Rare at best.

Sexuality: None.

Nudity: 1/10. Some silhouette-style nudity when Kurau first receives her powers and in the finale.

Religion: Kurau gives Christmas her name because of the warmth the holiday gave her.  Although Christmas does receive an Advent calendar, there is no emphasis placed on religion, Christian or otherwise.

Related Media: The show is based on a light novel of the same name. According to Wikipedia, there was  a manga, but it was never published in the United States.

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Lobster Quadrille Anime Review: Beast King Golion

Title: Beast King Golion, aka: Voltron: Defender of the Universe

Genre: Mech/Fantasy

Studio: Toei/ WEP (dubbed version)

Distributor: Media Blasters, also streams on http://www.crunchyroll.com and Youtube.

No. of episodes: 52

Summary: According to legend, a sentient being called Golion was transformed into five robot lions.  Now, in the future, five refugees have escaped from the Galra Empire’s space prison and crash-landed on the planet Altea. There, they discover the legendary robot lions and use them to defeat the Galra Empire.

Review: Beast King Golion is probably one of Japan’s most famous anime exports–we know it as Voltron. Voltron was actually the first anime I ever watched, but at the time I was unaware that the show was even Japanese.  So, when I learned that Crunchyroll had the original, unedited version, I had to see it.

So, is it worth it?  Well….I have reservations, even though I did enjoy it.  The characterization is so flat, that it’s difficult to really care about the cast. You have your courageous leader; your hot-headed big guy; your teen genius; your smart-aleck; you get the idea.  The villains are also just as stereotypical.  The Galra emperor Daibazzal is really not that different from Roman emperors. His son, Sincline, is only more interesting because he’s flashier and keeps attempting to usurp his father.

Another problem is that the show is repetitive. After our heroes succeed in reuniting Golion, every episode always has a mech battle that Golion usually wins, usually after weakening it enough for its finishing move.  This pattern is fine when you’re a kid, but now that I’m an adult, it actually got kind of boring.

Music/Score: I was really surprised by how cheesy the music was. It really didn’t fit what was happening, and I didn’t much care for it.

Sub/Dub: You’re better off with the original version.  Voltron was edited for American TV, cutting out much of the violence and rewriting the entire plot.  Some episodes were so problematic that World Event Productions (WEP) didn’t even bother to translate them.

Related Media: Golion never really caught on in Japan, so there was no manga.  Here in America, however, there was a short-lived small press comic book.

When WEP ran out of Golion episodes, they took another Toei mech title, Dairugger XV, and tried to pass it off as a sequel to Voltron.   Because this version had vehicles rather than lions, it’s often nicknamed “Vehicle Voltron.”  In 1998, WEP made its own sequel to Voltron using CG and called it Voltron: The Third Dimension.  Sprite also ran an ad campaign in the 90’s as well, using rappers as pilots.  There is also a new series as of June 2011 on Nickelodeon, and talk of a live-action movie.

Violence: 7/10 If you grew up with our version, you will be surprised at the violence.  Many innocents are brutally murdered or vaporized by Galra soldiers if they rebel.

Language: 2/10 Just a few curse words here and there, nothing above PG-level

Sexuality: 1/10 Sincline has a harem.  SPOILER: In the second to last episode, we learn that Daibazzal raped an Altean woman, resulting in Sincline’s birth.

Religious Material: (2/10) According to the pilot episode, Golion became a robot when it challenged the “goddess of space”. Also, the Galra empire has a witch working for them, who even has a cat for a familiar. However, she isn’t that different from the witches we see in fairy tales.

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