Archive for February, 2012

Lobster Quadrille Anime Review: Durarara!!

Genre: Action/Romance/Supernatural

Studio/Creator: Brains Base/Ryohgo Narita (writer) Suzuhito Yasuda (illustrator)

Distributor: Aniplex USA, streams on Crunchy Roll and Crackle

No of Episodes: 24 +2 specials

Suggested Age: 13+

My Rating: 8/10

Summary: When Mikado moves to the Ikeburo District, he is reunited with his childhood friend, Kido Masaomi. He also learnes that the district is home to headless motorcyclists, street gangs, superstrong bartenders, and Russian sushi chefs.

Review: This was actually better than expected. I liked how realistic the setting looked. Even for a gritty urban setting, the city was well-drawn.  I thought it was great that Celty, the headless motorcyclist, wasn’t even as evil as you’d expect–in fact, most of the time it seems like she’s the true hero of the story.

The closest thing the show has to a villain is Izaya Orihara, a “knowledge broker” who lives to manipulate others. He not only plays chess, but he also plays shoji, go, and Othello along with it–all at once. And sometimes, he even lights the board on fire! Yeah, he’s a little nuts.

My main problem with the show stems from its pacing. The show’s plot goes by way too fast and the big surprises come out of nowhere.  I won’t spoil them for you, but I will say there’s practically little, if any, buildup to them.  I watched it twice, and saw no clues.  I believe surprises work better if there’s buildup, so I was slightly annoyed by that. Other than that, this was an enjoyable series.

Sub/Dub: I watched the dub on Adult Swim and thought it was pretty good. Crispin Freeman played Shizuo very well.  The biggest surprise for me was learning that Johnny Yong Bosch, who plays Izaya, actually knows Russian.  And since Izaya also knows Russian, this adds some authenticity to his portrayal–more than his Japanese VA, who doesn’t even sound convincing.

Music/Score: I didn’t much care fro the show’s background music, but I did like the first opening and the two closing songs.

Violence (5/10): Because the show involves street gangs, there is inevitable gang violence.  We also learn that one character is a victim of child abuse. And there’s a serial killer.

Language: (6/10) Considering Cartoon Network had to bleep out some of the language in the dub, I’d say watch out for this.

Sexuality: (3/10) There’s a character named Anri who has somewhat big breasts.  Kida often makes sexist jokes about them, often with her right there to hear them.  Izaya has twin teen sisters who french kiss each other in one of the special episodes.

Nudity: (0/10)

Religion: (1/10) Celty is a modern-day version of the headless rider from the infamous Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  Her motorcycle even whinnies like a horse when it does wheelies.  Also, the serial killer in this story has a possessed sword and SPOILER: can control her victims.

Related Media:  This is based on a series of graphic novels. The writer and illustrator also wrote the novels that inspired Baccano!, which is also connected to this series. However, you don’t really need to have watched Baccano! first.

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Lobster Quadrille Anime Review: Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad

Genre: Slice of Life

Studio/Creator: Madhouse/Harold Sakuishi

Distributor: FUNimation

No. of Episodes: 26

Age Rating: 16+

My Rating: 9/10

Summary: Koyuki is an ordinary Japanese student until he stops a group of kids from beating up a strange dog. When he meets the dog’s owner, an American-Japanese immigrant named Ryuusuke and his hot teen sister Maho.  When Maho discovers Koyuki can sign, she convinces Ryuusuke to let him into his band Beck, which he’s named after his dog. But can they become a Japanese [i]and[/i] American sensation, especially with Ryuusuke’s shady past?

Review: This anime is two stories in one: it’s Koyuki’s coming-of-age story and the story of a band’s rise from obscurity to fame.  At times the story almost feels like a docudrama as we watch Koyuki mature from an awkward teenager into a man.  I truly enjoy the chemistry between Ryuusuke and Koyuki, as well as the rest of the band.  You really feel as though they care for each other. As his friendships with them mature, he gains more confidence, as evidenced by his interactions with the school bully.  When his band-mates begin standing up for him, he’s no longer a coward.  I also liked his friendship with Saito, an old man who becomes his swim coach and guitar instructor. Saito is somewhat crass, but he has an amiable side to him that almost allowed me to overlook his flaws.

The artwork for this show is great.  What I really like is that it showcases Japan’s fascination with American pop culture. If you py attention, you can see it in the anime everywhere, from the music to the clothing (although the band logos are often mocked up in order to avoid copyright infringement), to even the character designs (Taira, Beck’s bassist, is basically Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, right down to the constant shirtless shots) The animation flows very nicely, even the rotoscoping is excellent.

The only real flaw is the pacing. There’s some filler moments early on that bog things down a bit. I do like the backstory for Ryuusuke that explains how he acquired his bullet-holed guitar, which is named Prudence. The story also introduces Leon Sykes, a thug who has a vendetta against Ryuusuke that I don’t want to spoil. He’s not an overdone villain, but doesn’t need to be.  The vendetta even manages to drive a wedge between Ryuusuke and the band, causing some good tension.

Music/Score: The music is excellent. Beat Crusaders does most of the songs, and this anime really made me a han. My favorite songs are “Spice Up Your Life”, “Brainstorm” “Face” and “Hit in the USA”

Sub/Dub: I highly recommend skipping the sub. Because Ryuusuke and Maho spent time in the US, they actually learned some English. Neither of their Japanese VA’s sound convincing when they speak in English, so it’s more comical than it’s intended to be. I have heard some complaints about how the lyrics were altered for the English version, but I feel that’s to be expected with the differences in grammar between Japanese and English.

Violence: (3/10) I saw some light fist-fights, mostly between Koyuki and the bully and Ryuusuke and Leon’s “associates”.

Language: (7/10): There are a LOT of F-bombs in both versions. I really didn’t mind it because to me, it added some autenticitiy. I’ve met lots of crass people in real life.

Nudity: (3/10) There’s an episode where Maho and Koyuki skinny-dip. It’s also no secret that Saito is into porn.

Sexuality: (2/10)Saito and Chiba do make mildly sexual humor at times, but that’s it.

Religion: (0/10)

Drugs/Tobacco: (1/10) Since the band does get some bar gigs, drinking is a given.

Related Media: Tokyopop originally had the manga, but it’s been cancelled. I believe FUNimation also released a couple soundtrack CD’s. There was also a live-action movie.

 

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Lobster Quadrille Anime Review: Slayers Try

Genre: Fantasy/Comedy

Studio/Creator: Hajime Kanzaka & Rui Arazumi/J.C. Staff

Distributor: FUNimation, also streams on Hulu, FUNimation’s website, and Youtube.

Suggested Age: 13+

My Rating: 10/10

Summary:  In this third season of Slayers the heroes are met by Filia, a golden dragon. She tells them that they are to fulfill a propehcy and if they don’t, Lina’s sister will not be happy. (For those who don’t know, Lina’s sister is usually, although unseen, the only thing keeping her somewhat heroic.

Review: I thought that this was a pretty good season. The action was very good, and the comedy was still as good as ever. Things relally gotinteresting, because this time around, the villains tried to take away the Sword of LIght, GOurry’s only weapon. Filia started out being a load, but she eventually beame a good character. Another thing I liked was that we finally got to see where Xellos’s loyalties lied. Overall, if you enjoyed Slayers and Slayers Next, then pick this up too.

Sub/Dub: Again, you get all your favorite voice actors both ways. So whichever way works good.

Music/Score: As in the previous seasons, Megumi Hayashibara recorded two great songs for the show. Her music just gets better every season.

Violence: 4/10–Just some intense moments and magic-related violence.

Language: 2/10

Nudity: 0/10

Sexuality: 0/10–this is the safest season so far in this category. There’s not even any “flat-chest” jokes!

Religion: 3/10–Again, this show has a fair amount of Dragonball or Final Fantasy-style magic.

Related Media: There are 4 other seasons of Slayers: Slayers, Slayers Next, Slayers Revolution, and Slayers Evolution-R. There are also OVA’s, a manga series, the original light novels that inspired the anime, and video games.

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Anime Battle: Gunslinger Girl vs. Gunslinger Girl Season 2

There are two versions of the Gunslinger Girl anime. The first version was done by Madhouse, the makers of such great titles as Trigun, Monster, and Death Note.  They tend to make anime on a grand style, and don’t really have a “typical” look to them.  The second version, Gunslinger Girl Il Teatrino, was produced by Artland studio, which made Mushi-shi, Reborn, and Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Does the difference in studios really matter? Let’s find out. We’ll use the following criteria: Art/Animation, Story, Music, and Characters.

Art/Animation: I am a big fan of Madhouse and have found few titles that truly displeased me. They know how to make beautiful anime, and we see lots of that in episodes 7 and 13 of their version. Artland, however is a smaller studio on a smaller budget, and unfortunately, it shows. The first opening for Il Teatrino had boring still images and the character designs aren’t nearly as pronounced. (I wasn’t too fond of the changes in hair color and style.  For example, I thought Angelica looked better with black hair, like she had in season 1. Overall, I’d say Madhouse wins this round. (original: 1, Il Teatrino: 0)

Story: My main problem with both seasons is that with only 13 episodes each, there isn’t much time to tell a story. The average anime series lasts 24-26 episodes. I really feel that both seasons would have been better if there was more time. The original spends a great deal of time on character development, while the Il Teatrino spends a good amount of time on plot development and assumes you already watched the original. I think the second season handles the plot better, but the first did a good job with the character development, allowing you to really get to know the girls. So, both get a point (original: 2, Il Teatrino: 1)

Music: I really like the opening theme for Season 1 (the fact that it’s in English helps : D) The second season’s opening isn’t all that great. A nice suprire, however is hearing “Scarborough Fair”, one of my all time favorite songs. For this reason, we have a tie point here. (original: 3, Il Teatrino: 2)

Characters: As I said in the story, the original really allowed you to get to know the characters. Il Teatrino didn’t let you get to know the heroes and spent a lot of time on the villains. I don’t like how it assumes you watched the original. Point goes to season 1 (original: 4, Il Teatrino: 2)

Final Tally: Original: 4, Il Teatrino: 2

So with our final tally, we have season 1, with 4 points, as the winner.  This doesn’t mean I think Artland did a bad job. On the contrary, I think Artland did a good job with the resources they had. It’s not up to par with Mushi-shi, but Il Teatrino is pretty good.


 

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