Archive for April, 2012

Anime Review: Now and Then, Here and There

Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy

Distributor: Manga Entertainment (my version is the ADV version. Nothing is changed in either distributor)

Studio/Director: AIC/Hideyuki Kurata (writer), Atsushi Ohizumi (Character design), and Akitaroh Daichi (director)

No of Episodes: 13

Suggested Age: 16+ (note: ADV gives it a 13+ rating. However, I disagree and I think it deserves a 16+)

My Rating: 10/10

Summary: Shuzo Matsutame, or Shu to his friends, is a boy who lives in Japan and learns kendo.  One day, he sees a sad-looking blue-haired girl sitting on a smokestack atop an abandoned factory. He discovers her name is Lala-Ru. But before he can find out anything else, they are transported to a world under seige by the mad dictator Hamdo, who has enslaved children into his soldiers.

Review: This is one of the most powerful anime I have ever watched. The artwork is simplistic, but don’t let that fool you.  One thing I really like is the designs on Lala-Ru.  Because she rarely talks, (in fact it’s not until episode 8 that we actually hear her talk!), the designers gave extra attention to her expressions. Every time I saw that sad stare, I ached a little inside because I could see the sorrow in her eyes.

Shu is a great character and one of my favorite anime heroes of all time.  He is exceedingly compassionate and optimistic–no matter now bad things get, he refuses to despair and believes that “everything will work out.” He’s also a peacemaker–he refuses to fight anyone, except in self-defense. As a Christian, I admire this.  Christians are called  to be peacemakers and to only use violence if there is no other alternative.

Hamdo is an excellent villain. He is a childish man prone to tantrums.  He doesn’t care who he hurts to enslave others, even his lieutenant Abelia is injured by his crazed anger.

My final character is Sis, a woman who cares for abandoned children in a refugee camp.  She treats every child as if she were truly his/her mother and refuses to allow more violence. We only see her for a few episodes, but it was enough for me to love her.

What I liked most about this series is that it holds nothing back. It presented the horrors of war in all its forms and did nothing to shield you from it. By doing so, it added honesty to the story.  I do not enjoy graphic violence usually, but when it is presented as this story does, I don’t mind it–in fact, I applaud it.  The story clearly shows the consequences of the “cycle of violence”–that if violence goes unchecked, it will escalate.  It is only when someone decides enough is enough and attempts to stop it that it can truly be stopped. This is a powerful story that I would recommend to anyone who can handle the story. It is a powerful, necessary story.

Sub/Dub: Both versions are excellent. The dub features Crispin Freeman at his best.  Dan Green’s performance as Nabuca is also enjoyable, and Rachael Lillis does great as both Boo and Sis, showing impressive range.  Jack Taylor is just scary as Hamdo, and he needs to be.

Music/Score: Taku Iwasaki did an excelent job with the score. It accents the story well and gives it a very dramatic feel. While I wish the opening animation didn’t just do shots of the characters, I still liked the haunting melody.

Violence: 7/10–As I have stressed, this is a very necessarily violent story.  It is graphic, but not excessive.  I do not think it was overdone in the slightest.

Language: 2/10–I only heard a little bad language.

Sexuality:  5/10 SPOILER! Late in the story, a girl named Sara is raped, resulting in a pregnancy.  It is suggested that she abort the child and Sara attempts to do that. However, Shu and Sis do everything they can to stop her.

Nudity: 1/10–In one episode, we see Sis mending a boy’s pants.  He is naked from the waist down, but only for this reason.

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Anime Review: Tenchi Muyo GXP

Genre: Sci-fi/Comedy

Studio: AIC

Distributor: FUNimation, also streams on Hulu.

No. of Episodes: 26

Suggested Age: 16+

My Rating: 3/10

Summary: Seina Yamada is the unluckiest boy ever. And now he’s really got problems–he’s been drafted by the Galaxy Police!

Review: To anyone who actually liked this show–I apologize. I did not.  The animation was good. But the jokes were terrible.  The most disappointing thing was that Tenchi only showed up in one episode, despite the fact that the show bears his name.  But the biggest annoyance is Seina. I could not stand him!  His voice is terrible, the unlucky jokes were only funny once, and there was too much fan service.   This was nothing like what I like Tenchi Muyo for. In short, I wasted my time with this, and I suggest you skip it too.

Sub/Dub: I was only able to watch the dub. It was okay at best. I really wish they chose a different voice for Seina.

Music/Score: This was really the only thing I liked. Both the opening and closing songs were catchy, especially since the dub version had special dubbed versions of them.

Violence: 3/10–Mostly done for laughs.

Language: 2/10

Nudity: 6/10–LOTS of fan service. Especially in the closing.

Sexuality: 5/10–very crude sexual humor, mostly from MP, a robot who just loves to peek in on the female officers in various states of undress.

Religion: 1/10–The planet Jurai has a nature-based religion similar to Shintoism.

 

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The Top 20 Kid-Friendly Anime

For years, I’ve heard complaints from parents about Japanese animation. They say it’s not something they feel children should watch. There’s way too much violence, nudity, sex, and magic. I have difficulty arguing with that–I’ve seen several titles that I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable letting a child watch.

One thing that has to be understood is Japan’s culture. The reason so much anime has offensive material is that the Japanese realize that violence, sex, whatever–it’s all part of life. (harsh, but true) They feel that children must be prepared for life’s positives and negatives. I can’t argue with that logic.

However, you can find kid-friendly anime. I’ve narrowed 20 titles that I think would be great.

A few caveats:

1. Every anime distributor uses a rating system, often similar to what you see used for movies and TV.

2. I have decided to divide my list in half. Numbers 20-11 are those I feel are fine for ages 10 and up (some for ages 13 and up); while 10-1 are fine for all ages.

3. You don’t have to agree with my list. Some of these may still seem inappropriate. I urge you–watch them yourself first! Then decide.

20. Kakurenbo: Hide and Seek (CPM)–This is a game of hide and seek, except you’re not hiding from other kids, you’re hiding from monsters! They find you, you disappear! (insert evil laugh)

Why this is good: Believe it or not, kids love to be scared. Disney cartoons have lots of scary moments–I remember how frightening Maleficent was in Sleeping Beauty. The Secret of NIMH, Star Wars, Gremlins, Ghostbusters–we let our kids watch those too, and they’re filled with scares. (Gremlins is downright scary when you’re a little kid!) Besides, if kids didn’t enjoy being scared, do you think R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books would be good sellers?

19. Case Closed (aka Detective Conan) (FUNimation) –Jimmy is the smartest kid in town.  So smart, that when the local police have a crime that they turn to him. (kinda makes you wonder how smart they are, huh?) One day he spies on some criminals, they kidnap him and force him to drink a potion that turns him into a little kid.

Why This is Good:

which also had pretty much the same premise. The best part? You can actually solve the mystery along with Jimmy if you pay attention!

18. Last Exile.  (FUNimation)Already reviewed here.

17. Big O (Bandai) Already reviewed here.

16. Naruto/Naruto Shippuden (Viz) This is the story of Naruto Uzemaki, who wants nothing less than to be the Hokage, the leader of his village. Sure, he’s a bit of a rascal, but aren’t all children. I think lots of kids can relate to the characters in this story. And if the story is too violent, they can always watch the version that airs on Disney XD.

15. Heroman (streams on Crunchy Roll) Already reviewed here.

14. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (Media Blasters)–This is the story of Balsa, a woman who has killed eight people. Now, she is a bodyguard who wishes to repent of those deaths. In this story, she protects a boy who has a water spirit growing inside him.

Why This is Good: This is a beautiful story. Balsa is like a surrogate mother. I really feel children will enjoy the beautiful imagery in this title.

13. Erin (aka Kemono no Souja Erin–Beast Player Erin) (also streams on Crunchy Roll)–Erin is a girl who wishes to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a woman who cares for magical beasts. This is her coming of age story as she learns all she needs to know and grows into a mature woman.

Why This is Good: I really feel children will identify with Erin. This is almost like a Miyazaki movie, and it’s made by the same people who made Moribito.


12. Princess Tutu (AEsir Holdings)–This is the story of Duck, a duck who longs to be human and bring happiness to a boy imprisoned by evil.

Why This is Good: This is like a fairy tale gone horribly wrong, and is a joy for children. I once recommended it to a mother and her children loved it.

11. Dragonball/Dragonball Z/Dragonball Z Kai (FUNimation) Goku is a boy from another planet who joins in the search for 7 magical balls. If he finds all 7, he can summon the magical dragon Shen Long, who will grant only one wish. Dragonball is Goku’s story, while Dragonball Z is about his kid, Gohan.  There’s also Dragonball GT, but we Dragonball fans don’t talk about that much because it’s not as good as the others. For a shorter, less filler-happy version, watch Dragonball Z Kai.

10.Steamboy (Columbia)–A boy helps his grandfather, an inventor who uses steam.

Why This is Good: Katsuhiro Otomo is considered one of anime’s best directors and creators. However, this is really the only kid-friendly story he’s done. It’s action-packed, and even with the bad science, I feel kids will love it.

9. Speed Racer (Lions Gate. Also streams on Crunchy Roll) Speed is a race car driver who drives the Mach 5, an experimental race car with all kinds of gadgets. This was also made into a movie, and unlike most movies based on cartoons, it’s actually good!

Why This is Good: Today’s kids had Dragonball, and older anime fans had Speed Racer. Guess what? It still holds up!

8. Castle in the Sky (Buena Vista/Disney)–Sheeta is a girl with a magical pendant who meets a boy named Patzu who will do anything to protect her.

Why This is Good: This is one of Miyazaki’s earliest movies. It has lots of action and it’s non-stop.

7. Kiki’s Delivery Service (Buena Vista/Disney)–Already reviewed here.
6. Whisper of the Heart (Buena Vista/Disney)–Already reviewed here.
5. Spirited Away (Buena Vista/Disney)–Already reviewed here.

4. Pokemon (4Kids)–Ash Ketchum wants to be the best Pokemon Trainer in the world.

Why This is Good: Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t this a 30-minute marketing franchise, like Transformers, He-man and those other cartoons from the 80’s? Yes, but it’s also well-written.

3. Digimon (all versions) This is similar to Pokemon, but it actually precedes Pokemon. 

Why This is Good: Everything I said about Pokemon can be repeated here. You can find this series on both Crunchy Roll and Crackle. I placed it higher because all my friends who are more serious about the series than I am have told me it’s better than Pokemon.

2. Hikaru No Go (Viz) Hikaru is a boy who finds a magical Go board possessed by a ghost named Sai, who still wishes to master the “divine move”.

Why This is Good: I am currently watching this title, and I have yet to see much objectionable material. Plus, who knows? Maybe it will get your kids interested in the actual game!

1. My Neighbor Totoro (Buena Vista/Disney) A family discovers that their new home is inhabited by gentle cat-like spirits called Totoro (as well as “soot gremlins”).

Why This is Good: This is by far the safest, kid-friendly anime title I can think of. Every parent who has let their children watch it has come away pleased. It is a charming story for all ages.

 

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Anime Review: The World God Only Knows

(Note: This review covers both seasons.)

Genre: Fantasy/Comedy

Studio/Creator: Manglobe/Tamiki Wakiki (manga), Mamizu Arizawa (light novel)

Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, also streams legally on Crunchy Roll.

Suggested Age: 13

My Rating: 7/10

Summary: Keita is a boy who would rather play virtual novels on his PFP than actually pay attention in class. One day, he meets a demon named Elsie who sets up a contract with him. Now he must help her retrieve “loose souls” that have possessed people, causing them to act contrary to their true natures.

Review: This was recommended to me by a friend I had met online.  I have to say it was slightly above average.  The animation was nice, and I laughed at most of the jokes, especially how nerdy Keima was.

However, I had two problems. First, Elsie was pretty annoying. She was a ditz and her ADHD was unamusing at best. I also didn’t like how the final episode ended. There was no sense of closure; the story just–well–stopped. I still thought it wasn’t necessarily bad, I just didn’t enjoy it enough to give it anything above 7.

Dub/Sub: I only watched the sub.

Music/Score: The music was good. I liked both opening themes a lot, but the ending themes were only okay.

Violence: (3/10) Most of the violence is slapstick.

Language: (2/10) Mild at best.

Nudity: (1/10) In one episode, in order to keep up the facade that they are siblings, Elsie tries to take a bath with Keiba.

Sexuality: When Keita’s mother falls for Elsie’s ploy that they are siblings, she thinks her husband has cheated on her and immediately divorces him. There are also a few mild sex jokes.

Religion: (2/10) Elsie seems more like a trickster than an evil demon.

Related Media: There is a manga and a light novel.

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Anime Review: Mr Stain On Junk Alley

Genre: Fantasy/Comedy

Creator: Ryuji Matsuda

Distributor: FUNimation

No of Episodes: 13 and 1 OVA, which is also included in the collection.

Suggested Age: 7+

My Rating: 10/10

Summary: Mr. Stain is a homeless man living on Junk Alley with a cat named Palvan. The alley is a magical place which brings life to inanimate objects. Each episode follows this plot: Mr Stain or Palvan will find some object and interact with it. Episodes 1-13 are seven minutes each, while the OVA, which serves as an epilogue, is 31 minutes.

Review: This was an excellent anime. I was totally entertained by it. Granted, the artwork’s early CGI is dated and it shows, but that didn’t deter my enjoyment. It had a very whimsical feel to it and I was amazed at how much story was contained in the seven minutes (or 31 for the OVA) of each short, even though no words were spoken. This reminded me of Charlie Chaplin or Felix the Cat. I find no faults with this program.

Music/Score: The music has a whimsical feel to it, matching the anime itself. I really liked the closing theme.

Violence: (3/10) Although this is slapstick, it does occasionally result in blood.

Nudity: (1/10) In the OVA, Mr. Stain is seen posing like a body builder in front of a mirror and is naked. However, all the scenes are shot from either his back or his chest (THANKFULLY!)

 

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