Archive for January, 2012
Haibane Renmei is one of my all-time favorite anime series. It’s about a group of angelic beings called Haibane who live in a town called Glee, which is closed off from the rest of the world. It is a very moving piece about forgiveness and redemption and I think every anime fan should watch it. However, it was originally carried by Geneon, and that company no longer exists. FUNimation has picked it up, along with several other Geneon titles like Trigun and Samurai Champloo, which they have re-released. But why won’t they release Haibane Renmei? Because it doesn’t seem like it would be profitable. This from a company that’s made so much money off Full Metal Alchemist and Dragonball. I feel this is not a good reason. I really think the money that they might lose from Haibane Renmei could be covered by the other titles that they carry. So, I’m linking to a petition that I want my readers to read over. Perhaps with enough signatures, FUNimation will change their minds.
Studio/Creator: Artland/Yu Aida
Distributor: FUNimation, streams online on Hulu, Youtube, and FUNimation’s website
Suggested Age: 16+
My Rating: 7/10
Summary: This is a continuation of the anime Gunslinger Girl. This time, the SWA battles a terrorist movement known as the Padania Movement, who has also hired a male cyborg named Pinocchio.
Review: When I heard this was done by a different studio, I have to admit I was concerned. However, Artland did impress me greatly with Mushi-shi, so I thought it might not be too bad. One thing I should point out is that Artland is a much smaller studio than Madhouse (who did the first version) The difference in studio does matter. There are lots of still images in the first opening, and it’s kind of boring to watch. The character designs, while not bad, are a little off. (I liked Angelica better with black hair instead of purple hair) This show is much more plot-driven than the first season. Because of this, you should watch the first version before watching this, as it assumes you already have watched it and are familiar with the characters. Once again, the same flaw appears in both: 13 episodes is clearly not enough time to get the story going. Instead of being too slow in the previous installment, now it’s too fast. But the plot keeps moving very good throughout, and I liked the pacing. This isn’t as good as the first, but it’s not terrible either.
Sub/Dub: Both versions are pretty good. I should point out that a few of the voices in the sub version are different from the ones in the first season.
Music/Score: The opening song isn’t quite as good as the first version’s opening, but I thought it was ok. I actually got a nice surprise. In episode 8, one of my all-time favorite songs, “Scarborough Fair”, is played at the end. (It’s also a plot point.)
Violence: 8/10–Same as before. Triele and Pinocchio are also quite handy with knives as well as guns.
Language: 2/10–also similar
Related Media: Based on the manga created by Yu Aida. See my previous review of the first version for more info.
Studio: Sunrise (note: the credits also mention Hajime Yadate–who is a pseudonym for the writing staff of Sunrise–and Yoshiyuki Tomino who only created the original Gundam concept. This has actually nothing to do with the original Gundam series. Except for the giant robots, that is)
Distributor: Bandai, also streams legally on Crunchy Roll in Japanese only. It was also one of the earliest anime to air on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block (those were the days, huh?)
Suggested Age: 10+
My Rating: 8/10
Summary: In the distant future, the Oz Federation has oppressed space colonies. Five Gundam pilots–Heero, Duo, Trowa, Quatre, Wu Fei–have teamed up to oppose them.
Review: I am a huge fan of the Gundam franchise, and this is one of the reasons. I love the political intrigue, the dynamics in the characters, and the robot fights. Especially the robot fights.
My favorite characters are Quatre Winner and Duo Maxwell. I like Quatre because he’s actually a pacifist. He believes he fights so others don’t have to. He fights for peace. Duo is the show’s comedy relief. He tends to be the voice of reason in dialog, mostly because he does great snarks.
Because it has nothing to do with Yoshiyuki Tomino original vision, you don’t need to know anything about his version. This is a completely independent work. The story is told in a very clear way. There are no uncertainties about why our heroes are fighting and we get to see how evil the villains really are–this anime really believes in “show, don’t tell”.
There is one major flaw–when I got to the finale, I didn’t really feel a sense of closure. In fact this is the only time I’ve felt no closure from Gundam.
But if you’re new to Gundam and you want to see just why it’s so popular, this is one I’d recommend to you.
Sub/Dub: The dub is okay, but not great.
Music/Score: The show has 2 opening themes, and they’re both awesome. The ending theme…is not. In fact it sucks.
Violence: (5/10)Lots of explosion and some intense fights all throughout the movie, but very little gore.
This was a nice surprise for me. I haven’t looked at enough shojo, and I was expecting something really girly. But I really liked the characters and the animation was really sweet. I definitely might consider buying this after I finish getting all the Ghost In the Shell titles.
Studio/Creator: Madhouse/Yu Aida
Distributor: FUNimation. Also streams on their site, Youtube, and Hulu.
No. Of Episodes: 13
Suggested Age: 16+
My Rating: 8/10
Summary: This story is set in Italy and concerns five girls: Henrietta, Rico, Triele, Claes, and Angelica. Each girl has been given cybernetic enhancements by a government agency called the SWA. Each girl is condtioned and trained by a “handler” as an assassin for the agency.
Review: This was not an easy series for me to watch, mostly because it was so sad. What I found most interesting was how different each girl was. Henrietta is the focal character. She is quiet and very emotionally attached to her handler Guise (pronounced “Jose”) . My favorite girl was Triele. Don’t let her pigtails and stuffed animal collection fool you–this girl is someone you don’t mess with! The weak link in the group has to be Angelica, who is not only clumsy, but also a bad shot.
This has to be one of Madhouse’s best looking titles in terms of background art. In episode seven, the girls have a mission at a museum, and we get to see some very well-done depictions of Renaissance art. As a fan of this era of art, I thought this was neat. We also get some nice shots of Italy’s architecture.
The only flaw is that I really feel that the show was rushed and didn’t spend enough time on its story. It was nice to have all those character-centered episodes for the first half, but we need more plot for this kind of story too. Everything felt like a setup for the second season (which I will also review in two weeks). Even though I’m a character-oriented person, I think more story would’ve made it better. This really should have been 26 episodes.
Sub/Dub: An online friend of mine reviewed this series as well and watched the dub version. She told me that she thought the dub was very well done and had some great acting.
Music/Score: The music is very tragic. The opening theme was quite fitting, and I love the English lyrics. The closing theme, I didn’t like much. Maybe it’s because I don’t speak Italian.
Violence: (8/10) There’s a lot of gun-related violence, so much that I wondered if the girls would ever run out of ammo. The fact that these are children makes this even more disturbing. If you don’t like graphic violence, skip this series.
Sexuality: (3/10) SPOILER! In episode 4, we learn that as part of Henrietta’s conditioning, the SWA removed her uterus. (Interestingly enough, she’s the only one they did this to)
Related Media: There’s a sequel series called Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino, which was done by Artland Studio (makers of Mushi-shi) Both series are based on an ongoing manga in Japan. It was originally published in America by ADV, but when ADV changed to Sentai Filmworks, they folded their manga division. Then Seven Seas took over.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Studio/Creator: Bones/Bisco Hatori
Distributor: FUNimation, also legally streams on Hulu and Youtube
Suggested Age: 13+
My Rating: 9/10
Summary: When Haruhi accidentally breaks a vase belonging to her private school’s host club, they declare her indebted to them. She is forced to join the club, and does so as a host–despite the fact that only boys can be hosts. Will her secret be discovered by the patrons?
Review: This show is every bit as good as you’ve heard. The color palette is beautiful, and I really like the soft character designs. I really enjoyed how out of control things got, and I couldn’t stop laughing. Haruhi’s personality really won me over–particularly her assertive nature. She had great chemistry with all the hosts and her sarcastic comments made it fun.
Okay, but if I truly enjoyed it, why do I feel it doesn’t deserve a 10? Well, first there’s Renge. I HATED her! Her annoying laugh, her manipulations, her crazy entrance–there was noting I could enjoy about this waste of space. And what’s really annoying is that she had such potential. She was built up as a great antagonist, but then they kept making her so annoying. Thankfully, she’s only a minor character.
My next problem is the HUGE amount of filler. This is only a 26 episode series, did we really need that much? Some of it was fine–for example, the flashbacks into the hosts’ pasts, particularly Tamaki and the twins, really made them better characters than I initially thought (and the twins really creeped me out at first.) And the subplot with that all-girls school trying to win Haruhi over was good too. If it had been more of the story than it was, that would’ve been great. But there was some stuff that I really think was unnecessary. For instance, did we really need an Alice in Wonderland spoof? REALLY?
But, actually, my problems could be overlooked. The show is really good. I think if you like a good romantic comedy, give it a shot. Even if you’re a guy, this might be your thing. In fact, I’ve heard quite a few male friends of mine were actually fans of it.
Music/Score: I thought the opening theme was actually pretty good. It got stuck in my head real quick, and that’s often how I judge how good the themes are–if they stay with me after I’m done watching an episode. If they aren’t memorable, they don’t work. The closing didn’t really do anything for me, though.
Sub/Dub: Sorry, I was unable to fully invest myself in the dub because Hulu didn’t have the amount of dub episodes I needed. But from what I heard and from what fans have told me, it was pretty good. Vic Mignogna is hilarious as Tamaki and Caitlin Glass is perfect as Haruhi.
Violence: (1/10): Only slapstick here. (There are a lot of banana-slipping gags.)
Language: (1/10): Not too bad here.
Sexuality: First of all, there’s Haruhi’s attempts at dressing like a boy, but that’s really as far as she goes. She really just seemed like a tomboy to me. And then there’s the twins. BRRR! They were just…creepy. A lady friend on the Internet told me that yes, some girls do find boys pretending to be gay attractive. But these are twins. All I could think was “eww!”
Nudity: (1/10) I saw one or two scenes with Haruhi in her bra and panties.
Related Media: There’s also a manga published by Viz.
Here’s a new feature for the blog: Anime Battle. This will pit two anime titles that have similar themes against each other to see which one is better.
This time it’s Azumanga Daioh vs. Lucky Star. I’ve reviewed both these titles before, but let’s see which one really holds up.
The following criteria will be used:
- Comedy (they’re both comedies, after all)
Art/Animation: I like the art and animation in both titles equally. The backdrops are pretty and the characters are cute in both titles. Chiyo-chan is adorable. Konata’s cat-like smile and sleepy expression make me laugh. So, in this case, both titles get one point each.
Winner: TIE (Azumanga Daioh +1, Lucky Star +1)
Characterization: Azumanga Daioh has a small cast of nine characters. (Note: I consider a large cast to be something like Naruto’s cast) Each character seems simplistic at first, but they really don’t need to be complex. Perhaps one of the best examples of how good the characterization is would be to talk about Kagura. Kagura has a few cameos before she becomes a full-fledged character. Yet, we are still given enough time to see her as athletic, spunky, and competitive. We even see that she is quite protective of Chiyo-chan. When Tomo gets a little too mean towards Chiyo, she is always the first to object. Another good character is Sakaki. At first, she is shy. But as the show progresses, she slowly comes out of her shell and we see her as a quiet girl who loves animals and is kind to everyone. Plus, I must admit, I find her very pretty. That long hair, that sad far-off look. How can you not like her?
Lucky Star, by contrast, has lots of characters. And therein lies my biggest gripe–there’s way too many characters. It starts out with just Konata, Kagome, Hiiragi, and Miyuki. Then it seems like the writers realized there was a bunch of characters from the manga they forgot, so they dump them on the viewer in the second half. I found myself having to keep checking a character sheet I found online so I could keep track of who was who. I really felt swamped by them, and very few characters really stood out more than the original foursome we started out with. I really think if the show had kept its focus on the foursome, it would’ve been fine.
Winner: Azumanga Daioh +1 (score: 2)
Comedy: Both shows do a great job here. The timing is good and I laughed at a good portion of the jokes. However, if I had to pick, Azumanga Daioh would be the real winner. It sticks mostly to stuff everyone can laugh at–slapstick pratfalls, snarky comments, and genuine weirdness. There’s some pop-culture references, but even they work. Lucky Star‘s humor doesn’t really do that well. It has “otaku”-based humor, and unless you’re really knowledgeable of that culture, the jokes will whiz right by you. I’ll give both shows a point each, but Azumanga Daioh, in my opinion, is better at the humor.
Winner: TIE Azumanga Daioh +1, Lucky Star +1
Music: Both shows do have good music. Their theme songs are pretty addictive. I don’t think I’ll ever get “Soramimi Cake” or “Motteke! Sailor Fuku” out of my head anytime soon.
But Lucky Star also has one flaw–no ending theme, at least one that isn’t “borrowed” from other anime. And that dude that sings some of the “borrowed” songs on some episodes cannot sing–AT ALL! I got so annoyed with the “borrowed” themes that I wound up skipping the closings. I never did that with “Raspberry Heaven”, Azumanga Daioh’s closing.
Winner: Azumanga Daioh +1 (score: 4)
Plot: It’s hard to believe, but there is a point to Azumanga Daioh. For all purposes, this is pretty much what typical Japanese schoolgirl life is like. You really do see many of the characters go through development, both physically and mentally. (For instance, Chiyo doesn’t have puberty during first year, but in the second year, you clearly see a little sign of puberty. Sakaki also has some considerable physical changes.) As I stated, Sakaki goes through quite some depth in change. She slowly comes out of her shell and begins to hang out with the others more and through them, we start to see her as a quiet, but kind girl. When the characters finally graduate at the end, you feel as though you’ve watched them grow up and I’ll admit it, I felt a little sad when Chiyo cried because she realized that they were going to split up.
Lucky Star, well, doesn’t really have a plot. It can easily be compared to an American sitcom called Seinfeld. For those who’ve never seen Seinfeld, the show works like a chain reaction–one event leads to another and keeps doing so until the episode ends. Lucky Star has the same structure. To be fair, Azumanga Daioh also has its moments of random, but it’s actually rare. And the finale was such a rip-off! It was just the girls getting ready to do the same cheerleading routine we see in the opening. Oh sure, there’s more animation to it, but it’s still basically the same stuff. So because Azumanga Daioh is the only one of the two that actually has plot progression, it gets the only point.
Winner: Azumanga Daioh +1 (score: 5)
So, who won? Azumanga Daioh, with a final tally of 5 points, while Lucky Star only gets three. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like both shows. I found them both very funny and I really don’t feel like I wasted any time with either of them, even if I felt ripped off by Lucky Star’s finale. But I felt Azumanga Daioh did the job better and was the stronger show.