Archive for March, 2013

Naoki Urusawa’s Monster

monsterGenre: Drama/Suspense

Studio/Creator: Madhouse/Naoki Urusawa

Distributor: Viz, also streams on Hulu (Note: Only a small amount of the series is on DVD.  You’re really better off watching it on Hulu.)

No. Of Episodes: 74

Suggested Age: 17+

My Rating: 10/10

Summary: Dr. Tenma is an accomplished Japanese neurosurgeon. One night fraternal twin children, a boy and a girl, are admitted to his hospital.  The boy, Johan, is suffering a bullet wound to the head, and the girl, Anna, is catatonic.  But before Tenma can even begin operating, the mayor is also in need of an operation.  Tenma’s boss insists that he stop what he’s doing and operate on the mayor, but he refuses. When Tenma stands his ground, the boss eventually gives in, but there’s a catch–Tenma will have no hope of promotion. Tenma is furious, but controls his anger, ranting to his comatose patient instead.  Some days later, Tenma’s boss and a few other surgeons are murdered and he is the prime suspect.  However, there isn’t enough evidence to convict.  Several years later, Tenma has moved up in rank. But he soon learns that the boy he saved is now full grown and has become a serial killer.

Review: This is, without doubt or hyperbole one of the best titles I have ever watched. Often, when I watch something over 52 episodes, it becomes something of a chore, but this is not the case. The story is both well-written and well-paced.  Madhouse is one of the best studios in Japan and it shows.

Doctor Tenma is an excellent and instantly relatable hero.  He places high value on life and the whole series makes you wonder if he will abandon his principles and kill Johan.

Anna Liebert is made of awesome.  She has been traumatized by her brother, but it only fuels her resolve. She becomes a black belt in Aikido and maintains a tough exterior.  However, she is still broken mentally.

Johan is the devil incarnate!  Don’t let his pretty-boy looks fool you.  The man is cold, emotionless, and treats everyone as if they were his marionettes.  He befriends potential victims with a silver tongue, getting to know them little by little, so that they drop their defenses.

Often assisting Johan is Robert, a heavy-set, scary person.  He is extremely devoted to Johan, and almost as dangerous.  He doesn’t use the same tactics as Johan, but is still ruthless and bloodthirsty. He is the perfect complement to Johan.

There’s also Inspector Lunge. He is a meticulous detective who boasts that his mind is like a computer.  He is often seen making typing motions with his fingers, which he explains is his way of memorizing information he has gathered.  He is a lot like Inspector Javert in Les Miserables. He firmly believes Tenma is guilty of murdering his superiors. What’s more, he believes Johan doesn’t even exist.  To him, Johan’s just a figment of Tenma’s imagination, a fabrication created to make people think he’s innocent.  He even attempts to figure out Tenma by method acting, envisioning himself as what he thinks of Tenma.

The central theme is one of my favorites: the problem of evil.  Are we born evil, nothing more than intelligent but savage creatures?  Or is evil more a product of environment and upbringing?  As a Christian, I believe in free will. After all, not everyone who has abusive parents becomes abusive themselves.  Conversely, one can have compassionate parents and still be capable of evil.  But evil is a choice, not an inevitability.

The series actually makes a case for both sides of the nature vs. nurture argument.  There are times when it favors our nature, and others where it shows us each character’s past and how it has determined where they are. It is a challenging story.

If you can handle a story on this scale, I highly recommend this title. It is not attempting to shock for the sake of controversy.  Everything happens to advance and enhance the story.

Music/Score: Very good. Gothic chants are heard throughout the story, and the opening has a very eerie feel to it.

Sub/Dub: I caught the dub on Syfy’s extremely short and poorly-managed anime block.  I liked it and it really sucks that Viz was unable to release the whole thing on DVD. Liam O’Brien was excellent as Tenma.

Violence: (10/10) Lots of graphic scenes, as well as a few rape scenes.

Language: (5/10) I heard quite a bit of cursing.

Nudity: (8/10) The rape scenes I mentioned fit in under here as well.  Please note: this is not fanservice. It has a point.

Religion: (1/10) Only a verse from Revelation is used, and it’s at the beginning.

Related Media: Based on the manga of the same name.

 

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Anime Review: Tenchi Muyo OVA

tmoGenre: Sci-fi/Harem/Romantic Comedy

Studio: AIC

Distributor: FUNimation, also streams on Hulu.

 

No. of Episodes: 13 (note: eps 1-6 and 8-12 run about 30 minutes, while eps 7 and 13 run about 45 minutes)

Suggested Age: 17+

My Rating: 10/10

Summary: Tenchi Masaki is a seemingly normal boy whose family owns a shrine. That is, until he curiously enters a cave and meets a 700+ year old demon named Ryoko.  Then he meets the Jurai Princess Ayeka and her sweet sister Sasami, a ditzy space policewoman named Mihoshi, and a mad scientist named Washu.  Then it all goes chaotic from there.

Review: I know what some of you out there are probably thinking: “Didn’t he already cover this?” Well, actually I covered the first TV series in the Tenchi Muyo TV series, Tenchi Universe. This OVA came first and is somewhat different. Keeping track of Tenchi Muyo’s continuity is like keeping track of the DC Comics’ universe: it keeps changing with each series.  That’s actually not a bad thing.

For the purpose of this review, I’m only going to talk about what’s different between this and the first TV series.  The origins of each character are somewhat different, but the fundamentals are still there.  Mihoshi is way more annoying because she doesn’t have Kiyone to compensate for her stupidity.  Sasami has a water spirit using her as a host.  Ayeka is somewhat nicer at first, but she still hates Ryoko and vice versa.  Washu’s past is more mysterious, and she isn’t in exile like she was in Tenchi Universe.

The animation is actually somewhat better than the TV version, as if the budget was better.

If you want a good classic series, I’d highly recommend this series. I’m so glad FUNimation is continuing to revive Geneon’s big hits.

Sub/Dub: Just as good as the TV version.

Music/Score: The first half’s opening theme and closing are great. The second half is all right, but not as good.

Violence: (3/10) Some sci-fi violence and blood.

Language: (2/10)

Nudity: (7/10) Lots of fanservice here, about once an episode! We also see a naked baby as well.

Sexuality: (0/10)

Religion: (1/10) As I stated, Sasami has a water spirit using her body as a host.  The Jurai culture has  a religion similar to Shintoism.

Related Media: There are two TV series, a manga, and two spinoffs: Tenchi Muyo GXP (sorta) and Tenchi Muyo: War on Geminar.

 

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Anime Review: Kaze No Stigma (Stigma of the Wind)

knsGenre: Fantasy

Studio/Creator: Gonzo/Takahiro Yamato (Writer) & Hanamaru Nanto (artist)–light novels

Distributor: FUNimation

No of Episodes: 24

Suggested Age: 13+

My Rating: 5/10

Summary: Kazuma is a member of the Kannagi clan, experts in fire magic.  The heir to the clan is given Enraiha, a sword made of fire. But when his cousin Ayano defeated him, she became the heir instead and he was banished. Four years later, he gets a new name, Kazuma Yagami, and has now mastered wind magic. He is reunited with with Ayano and his younger brother, Ren, only to discover that some of his family has been murdered by a wind master. Now he must clear his name.

Review: I saw the trailer for this on my Last Exile boxed set and it looked awesome.  A woman wielding a sword made of pure fire and a guy using wind magic sounded awesome.

I now understand why Gonzo went bankrupt a few years back.  Sure, they made awesome stuff: Last Exile, the “Second Renaissance” shorts for the Animatrix, and Romeo X Juliet are my favorites. But then, stuff like this comes along.

The art and animation are great, especially during the magic fights.

Kazuma is like Spike Spiegel meets Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender. So what if he can’t use fire magic? He’s got wind blades! He can create force fields! He can shoot lightning! Who needs fire anyway?

Next is Ayano. She is fiery in more ways than one.  Not only does she have red hair and Enraiha, but dang, what a temper! You do not bring this scorned woman’s wrath upon you!

Ren practically worships Kazuma. But don’t let his pretty-boy looks fool you. By episode 10, he proves he can be just as cool as his hero.  He quickly became my favorite character.

Genma is Kazuma’s dad. I hate him so.  He banished Kazuma and even though later in the story he does manage to clear his name, the poor guy still gets no love! He was even willing to kill Kazuma right at the start of the story when the murders occurred.  Yes, I know you hate the wind clan, Genma, but this is your flesh and blood!

Catherine is from the USA, and she’s a riot.  She originally comes into the story because she wants to defeat Ayano, but sticks around because she falls in love with Kazuma. She can create spirit beasts and is so much fun because of her temper and constant bickering with Ayano.

Here’s my main problem–the show didn’t end!  This is the curse of the Internet Reviewer. Now, I know the writer of the novels died before the novels could be finished, but so what? You could make your own ending instead of leaving us hanging.

Sub/Dub: Both versions are great.

Music/Score: The opening song is just awesome.

Violence: (4/10) Some intense deaths as well as the elemental magic.

Language: (2/10)

Sexuality: (0/10)

Nudity: (3/10)–there’s a hot springs episode, so of course we get some nudity.

Religion: (2/10) In addition to the magic I’ve brought up, there’s a Tao practitioner. Catherine’s main spirit looks like an angel.

Related Media: Based on the light novels of the same name.

 

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Lobster Quadrille: Tiger and Bunny

tbGenre: Superhero/Comedy

Studio: Sunrise

Distributor: Viz, also streams on Hulu

Suggested Age: 13+

My Rating: 10/10

Summary: The City of Sternbild is protected by superheroes who are the product of NEXT, a project attempting to advance human evolution.  A TV channel called Hero TV broadcasts their exploits and each of the superheroes are sponsored by different companies. The series mainly focuses on Wild Tiger and his partner, a green-around-the-gills, named Barnaby, who’ve been partnered by Hero TV in order to boost ratings.

Review: Before I became an otaku, I was a huge comic book fan.  I was mostly a fan of X-men, Spider-man, the Justice League, and Batman.  But at one point, I got sick of it.  The prices were too high.  The editors kept changing things that worked and rebooting the lineup, sweeping away stuff I enjoyed.  I stopped caring.

So when I heard about this show, I wanted to check it out to remind myself of what I used to enjoy.

The animation and art are great. The show uses CG well and everything looks swell.

Wild Tiger is an old-fashioned hero who was inspired by Mr. Legend, the first superhero for Sternbild.  He has the ability to increase his strength and senses hundred-fold.  I liked his cocky attitude and when his daughter was introduced later, I liked their relationship.

Barnaby is a great contrast.  He’s edgier than Wild Tiger and doesn’t quite adhere to the same virtues his partner does.  The two of them bicker constantly, but they have great chemistry and eventually do get along.

Dragon Kid was probably my favorite.  She is a kid who fights like Bruce Lee and has a tomboyish personality.  I liked her enthusiasm and determination.

Blue Rose works for Pepsi and has ice powers.  She does not initially like the idea of being a superhero because she only got the gig because she was told it would help her become a singer.  She does eventually warm up to the idea and isn’t as “icy” as she starts out.

This is only a sampling of the heroes.  Of course, what good are heroes if they don’t have villains to fight, correct?  Well, for that we have Lunatic.  He sees himself as a hero and refuses to show mercy to the criminals he targets.  This puts him at odds with the real heroes, who become his foes because they don’t believe in killing the villains.  There’s also a street gang called the Ouroboros, who generally wreak havoc.

I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys the comics I grew up with or the movies based on them.

Sub/Dub: I was unable to watch the dub.

Music/Score: The music is okay at best. Nothing really stood out, but the opening animation was good.

Violence: (3/10) Typical superhero-style violence.

Language: (1/10)

Nudity: (1/10) Blue Rose’s outfit is rather revealing.

Sexuality: (2/10) Fire Emblem is an effeminate hero.

Religion: (0/10)

Related Media: Viz publishe

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