Archive for November, 2007



Stupid Commotion is a GOOD Thing. Really.

I promised myself I wasn’t going to write about Baccano! unless I’d seen the whole thing, and, well, since episode 13 came out today, and I was in need of something to do, I decided to marathon from 9 to 13 today.

Turned out to be a really good idea.

I had a feeling Baccano! was going to be good the instant I figured out it was about 1930s America. Of course, then I was more concerned with things like “Holy crap, we’re going to have SPEAKEASIES! In ANIME! And GANGSTERS! PROPER ones, too!” That was before I learned how much style the show had–it practically oozes it from every frame. The first episode made zero sense and teased us all with Wakamoto Norio voice, but after that episode the show started in earnest and got awesome fast.

The big strength of the show is the characterization. The ensemble cast, especially in the Flying Pussyfoot sequence, were wonderfully done–from little things like Ladd Russo’s jittery feet, eager for a kill, to the significance of Jacuzzi Splot crying all the time, to the utter cluelessness of Isaac and Miria (they’re STILL clueless at the very end. It’s amazing), most of the major characters were incredibly likeable. And the villains, the ones you love to hate: Szilard Quates and Rail Tracer. The major characters in every arc were beautifully characterized.

Part of this strength is the fact that the Baccano! light novels were written by an actual author who won an actual prize for his writing (Narita Ryougo and the Dengeki Novel Prize for the first Baccano! novel). The exceptional care a good novelist takes on his work is clear even in the anime adaptation–one can see it not only in the characters, but in the plotting and pacing aspects too.

As for the actual ending, the last episode was brilliant. We got to see Jacuzzi kick ass. We got to see the untimely demise of Szilard Quates. We got ISAAC AND MIRIA IN 2001! And the whole thing was beautifully orchestrated and directed, leaving a strong emotional impact on the viewer. I haven’t decided if Baccano! deserves the coveted* 10/10 rating yet or not, but it’s got a 9 right now, so that’s not much worse. And that’s not bad for a show I didn’t think I’d like as much as I do–I typically don’t go for “action shows”–for instance, I didn’t watch Black Lagoon, despite hearing about how great that was, but I’d certainly watch it in a crowded room; shows like that are meant to be enjoyed with friends, I think. Baccano! probably qualifies as an “action show”, but, man, if only every action show was as well-done as it is.

*coveted used loosely, I always think I pass out 10s like it’s candy at Halloween.

I look forward immensely to its licensing, and I certainly hope it gets a run on American TV. I think more people would appreciate it that way.

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You probably already know this, but…

Oops.

ef 7 was masterfully done. It had a budget of approximately $27.44, but man, was it awesome. I think Shinbo/Ounuma Shin had been holding back for the last six episodes to accentuate the absolute devastation in this episode. My opinion of this anime shot up about a point and a half in the past three or so episodes. If the drama resulting from this turn of events is wonderfully delicious, as I fully expect it to be, we have ourselves a winner.

Shinigami no Ballad: Warm Sorrow is Preferred Here

So I’m only halfway through Shinigami no Ballad (which isn’t saying much as the series is six episodes) but it’s impressed me every episode (all three of them). I’m a big fan of Mochizuki Tomomi’s direction (especially in Zettai Shounen, expect a post on that once I finish rewatching it), and he’s certainly at top form in this anime. Witness what is becoming one of my favorite Mochizuki camera angles ever:

The camera in INSIDE THE ALARM CLOCK. How is that not awesome?

Random comments on silly camera angles aside, the series really is warm. The story of episode one is probably the saddest one, although, by the end of it, it’s kind of heartwarming. The other two episodes I’ve seen have all been much less sad, but the important thing that ties these episodes together is that they’re all simple tales of romance. And there isn’t much more I like in anime than a softly-told romance (hence my predilection for yuri), so that just makes this series even better, in my opinion. And it’s always been my opinion that Mochizuki does soft real well–he directed Twin Spica, after all.

Short post, I know, but more people need to watch this little gem of a show. It deserved more than six episodes, and it’s a must-see for Mochizuki fans (all five of you). I hear it was based on a light novel series–maybe if my Japanese reading ability ever gets up to snuff I’ll read them.

UPDATE: The light novels are LICENSED so I don’t have to worry about reading Japanese! I can read them in English! Hooray for laziness!

Hidamari Sketch: Turning Point for Shinbo?

Okay, this one might take some explaining.

First, I think we all know by now that Shinbo Akiyuki is nuts. He did SoulTaker, which I’ve heard is a very bad show, but it certainly bears his directorial imprint. He did Tsukuyomi ~Moon Phase~, which I kind of like, and kind of don’t (haven’t finished it yet, though). He did Pani Poni Dash, which I’m equally ambivalent about–I find the episodes pleasant to watch, yet I didn’t find it uproariously hilarious like many other people seemed to. Negima!? was basically Pani Poni Dash Part the Second.

And then Hidamari Sketch aired.

It was like he’d finally found his footing. Hidamari Sketch had a tiny budget, but you don’t give a shit because Shinbo is just having a grand ol’ time cutting corners and turning it into art. From the “stair-climbing animation” to the “door opening animation” to the cuts to “X” when Yuno is talking to the almost total lack of backgrounds, it’s very delightfully abstract. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that while watching episode 5, when Yuno is down with fever and sleeping all day in her room (having crazy fever dreams, of course) I actually sat there and thought about how nice it would be to be sick.

I’m not kidding.

The whole show is a pure pleasure to watch, a drastic upset from the tedium experienced in Pani Poni Dash. Rather than trying to force comedy, as Pani Poni Dash seemed to do for me, Hidamari Sketch is less trying to be a wacky comedy and more trying to be a cute, fun slice-of-life series with some light humor thrown in, which it succeeds at adeptly.

And hot on the heels of Hidamari Sketch we have Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, a quality manga (it won a Kodansha manga award for shounen) turned into a quality Shinbo anime. Here, Shinbo’s visual antics can only enhance the experience, including what is probably the best Shinbo OP sequence ever (lesbians, anyone?). I said it in an earlier post, but Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is one of the most consistently hilarious anime I’ve seen (“I am a MASTER at avoiding eye contact!”)

And, finally, there’s ef – a tale of memories. I’m not very far into the series yet, and Shinbo isn’t directing so much as supervising (I prefer to think of it as “instructing fresh blood in the fine art of being totally insane”), but, again, he’s bringing his distinctive visual flair into the mix, a fitting way to approach an anime based on a visual novel that used the talents of Shinkai Makoto to animate the OP sequence.

In short, I feel Hidamari Sketch was a true turning point for Shinbo, at least in my eyes. I think it just goes to show you shouldn’t write off any one director on a permanent basis.

Some Thoughts on Mobile Suit Gundam 00

First off, let me make clear this fact: I’m certainly no expert on Gundam. I certainly like the series as a whole, but I still haven’t seen EVERY. SINGLE. GUNDAM. SERIES. EVER. My favorite ones are, interestingly enough, the most unusual ones: G Gundam and Turn A Gundam. They’re the ones which took the concept of Gundam and did something radically different from the traditional formula established by Tomino in the original series–in Turn A’s case, it was Tomino himself breaking the mold.

So it should probably come as no surprise that I like Gundam 00. The first interesting thing I noticed about it was that the director, Mizushima Seiji, renowned for directing Fullmetal Alchemist, had never seen a Gundam series in his life. Ever. And this is the exact reason Sunrise approached him with the offer to direct their latest Gundam series, apparently–they wanted to get someone who could look at Gundam from an outsider’s perspective and bring the franchise to a whole new audience.

The second interesting thing I noticed about it was that Mizushima decided to set 00 in our universe, in our timeline. The reason for doing this, of course, is so he can more directly comment on our world as it stands today. He already did this in Fullmetal Alchemist–and did a damn fine job of it, too–but now that he gets to set a Gundam series in our timeline, with our nations, we’re clearly in for a huge dose of that.

And so I eagerly anticipated the premire of Gundam 00 with baited breath,even though its airing meant that Terra e… had to finish, a fact that greatly saddened me. And then the slated day arrived, and it was glorious. Of course, the episode wasn’t a twenty-four minute monologue of Setsuna F. Seiei reading a treatise on the problems of international politics in 2007, but that’s not what I was expecting. I tend to give series that aspire to be epic a few episodes to get their feet steady on the ground so they can soar to the lofty heights necessary for a truly epic scale story, and Gundam 00 was no exception, but, again, that doesn’t mean the series was bad because it didn’t start off with a bang.

However, I think that, with episodes 6 and 7, the “prologue” of Gundam 00 is over, and the real action begins now. The last two episodes center around the arrival of a clear antagonist for Setsuna, in the form of Ali Al-Sarches, the callous mercenary bastard who trained Setsuna to be a merciless killer, starting with his parents.

And that wasn’t the only interesting part about the episode. When Louise Halevy (my favorite 00 girl thus far, god bless Saito Chiwa) announces that she is going to take Saji Crossroad CLOTHES SHOPPING (much like Sumeragi’s tagalong pair of bridge bunnies did the previous episode) and summarily gets knocked down by the explosion of a terrorist’s bomb in a nearby bus, I am starting to sense the awesome coming from 00. When you throw in terrorists committing terrorist acts against what is effectively a paramilitary terrorist organization (Celestial Being) announces that it is trying to end all wars, you just know things are going to spiral out of control, and fast.

It may never be the best Gundam, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting, and a very good choice for Sunrise’s 30th anniversary celebration of the Gundam franchise. Which is another reason to expect greatness from 00: not only does it follow up the travesty that was Gundam SEED Destiny, but it’s a 30th anniversary show. Clearly they’re wanting to pull out all the stops.

Potemayo: Holistic Retrospective, or, Honi Honi Honi Honi Honi

Yes, I know. I watch things slowly. Get used to it.

Potemayo was, for me, a real charmer of a show. I always love watching a well-done comedy, and Potemayo, as far as anime is concerned, pretty much has my style of comedy down pat. I mean, it’s about a cute little cat-human…thing. That grows flowers on top of its head. It doesn’t even try to make any kind of literal sense, it just creates its own little world populated with ridiculously rich girls voiced by an extremely high-pitched Kugimiya Rie who enslaves boys who confess to her (even accidentally; poor, poor Mudo) and totally ignores her older brothers who apparently have some kind of massive sister complex. Oh, and Guchuko.

I had a feeling the series would be a laugh riot from the get-go; the best gag in the entire first episode had to be Guchuko taping things. First she busts out of Sunao’s refrigerator, and tapes the door together with three pieces of tape. Then she busts out of Sunao’s front door, and tapes the door back together with three pieces of tape. Then she goes to the park, and Kyou throws her a truffle. Startled by the truffle, Guchuko chops it in half.

At this point, I think to myself “she is so totally going to tape that truffle”. Which was exactly what she did. With three pieces of tape. It was a moment of epic comedy the likes of which haven’t been seen since Shinji’s pantsu SEED burst during the onsen epiosode of Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu. Somehow, for me, guessing what the punchline is going to be a split-second before the punchline is actually given always makes a joke about 100% funnier. It’s some kind of weird combination of expecting the unexpected, and seeing that not only was your guess correct, but that the show did justice to it.

The remaining episodes lived up to the heights of comedy promised in the first episode. It’s the rare anime comedy that holds my interest more than a few episodes (most of them rely too much on I AM GOING TO YELL A LOT AND THIS WILL SUBSTITUTE FOR ACTUAL COMEDY, or on what American fans love to call “it’s so random“), and the ones that do I generally just find more pleasant to watch than actually hilarious. Since it’s such a rare thing, it’s a real pleasure to watch something that is genuinely hilarious. The only comedy from 2007 that meets Potemayo is Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, and that’s basically cheating since a post-Hidamari Sketch Shinbo Akiyuki is directing.

This kind of turned into an aimless rant, but that’s okay. Conclusion: Watch Potemayo. You’re missing out on quality humor and entertaining characters if you don’t.

Also, I have no idea what bearing the title has on the actual content of the post, but, hey, “Holistic Retrospective” is a cool phrase. And I’m all about cool phrases, even if they have no actual bearing on anything whatsoever.


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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