Archive for January, 2008

Ultimate Survivor Chagum

I should probably watch Kaiji before I make jokes about it, but episode 10 of Seirei no Moribito cried out for it.

I’ve only seen a few more episodes than when I last talked about Seirei no Moribito but the more I (slowly) watch of this series, the more impatient I am for Scholastic to release the novel series over here. It’s the exact kind of story I’d like Western YA fantasy novels to have more often. I have the feeling, from watching the sedate and soft-feeling anime, that the novel itself will be excellently written in the kind of style I like. I know what I’ve come to like in books, and Seirei no Moribito certainly fits the bill.

On the anime side of things, however, it’s clear even now that the action-filled first several episodes was merely a prelude to the actual content of the series: that of Basla becoming a mom. It’s interesting seeing what’s happened since Balsa fulfilled her promise to avenge the deaths she inadvertently took by saving an equal number (I think it was 8), even though we’ve only seen her since she took on the job of protecting Chagum. Despite being about mundane daily aspects of life in fantasyland, the series manages to be thrilling. Whether it’s Balsa hiding in the closet of a blacksmith, or, in this episode, Chagum defeating corrupted gamers with his imperially-trained wits, this anime never really fails me. I wish I had more time to watch it, but I think savoring it slowly is the way to go (I think savoring it slowly is the way to go with a lot of anime but that’s just me).

Further updates as events warrant.

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Holy Mother of God, Bandai Visual got it right

So apparently Bandai Visual acquired the licenses for Shigofumi and true tears.

They are going to start releasing them in May. They are going to coincide with the Japan DVD releases.

And they are charging a normal price point for them.

That’s right. $29.99 MSRP DVDs from Bandai Visual/Honneamise. Except Shigofumi is still $39.99, and true tears has one episode, but whatever. PROGRESS!

This is amazing news. That is some incredible turnaround time for releasing DVDs in America. At this point, I no longer care whether the series will end up being any good or not (as they stand right now, they’re very good, and I don’t see that changing). This is a brilliant move by a company that was the butt of every joke a few months ago. The anime industry is making progress towards eliminating the somewhat artifical need for fansubs altogether. They’ll always be around, as long as there’s unlicensed series that merit attention, and I can’t totally see myself supporting buying series unseen on a regular basis, but this is a step in the right direction. Next we just need official subtitled subscriptions offered by the licensor that have a short turnaround time (+/- one week, although simultaneous broadcast and release on the subscription service would be amazing) and companies can finally provide a legal alternative to fansubs at low cost to fans. Fansubs are nice and convenient, but not when they cut into domestic DVD sales.

I’ve already preordered these DVDs. It’s a far sight better than Bandai Visual’s last offerings. $20/$27 (which is what they’ll cost at TRSI if you preorder and have the membership discount) is a lot better looking for 1/2 episodes than $60. I’d still rather see it down at Simoun-level price points, but hey–they’re trying.

Rahzel likes to experiment with twintails

Her hair style is different every epsiode, I swear. I think the original manga-ka or the character designer is having a twintails orgy and everyone’s invited for some down-home hairstyles.

So, Hatenkou Yuugi is still a pretty solid series, although the second and third episodes were nowhere near as fast-paced and snappy as the first episode was. The series is essentially crazed-villain-of-the-week in format, but the interplay between Rahzel, Alzeid, and Baroqueheat is still quite entertaining. I like how, in episode three, Rahzel needs some saving, and Deus Ex Alzeid pops up with Baroqueheat, and the entire room of possessed clown dolls just stands around waiting while they chew Rahzel out for leaving them alone.

The main focus of Hatenkou Yuugi appears to be each individual character. The first episode focused on the ghost that Rahzel was hired to rid the former “lover” of, the second episode focused on the child’s quest for revenge for his father’s slaughter in an inhuman prison game, and the third uses Romario to shed a little more light onto Rahzel’s character. I’m assuming that over the course of this woefully short series, we’ll get some more of Alzeid and Baroqueheat’s backgrounds as well.

Of course, the most likely reason the series is so short is because Studio DEEN didn’t give it a whole lot of budget in the first place. It’s kind of too early to tell how it’s going to end up in the Grand Scheme of Things, but at its episode count, at this point you might as well just watch every episode. And there’s that Imagawa writing credit to contend with, too…

Love Pentagons (as well as body wash and birdseed) Leave a Bitter Aftertaste, Indeed

Four episodes into true tears and we’re set for drama. Shin’ichiro likes Hitomi, Noe like Shin’ichiro, and Aiko likes Miyakichi (but secretly likes Shin’ichiro), and who knows who else is going to enter the fray, so we might end up with a love heptagon or something (I dare someone to make a diagram if this happens. Make sure it has sides of equal length!). I’m liking it so far. It strikes a good balance between the serious and the silly, and I like the way comical moments (such as brushing one’s teeth with body wash) tie into the overall plot. It’s a changeup from the Key method of inserting humor, where the humor serves as a kind of gimmick to create affection between the viewer and the character. Not that that is a bad thing, necessarily, but it’s good in true tears as this series is only going to be 13 episodes long, and they’ll need all the plot development they can cram into it.

And I think that comparisons with ef – a tale of memories are going to be inevitable on the behalf of other people, but, as with all things, the strengths of each are different. ef was made spectacular via its visual flair and excellent directorial execution. true tears is much more subdued, of course, but it makes up for it by having more engaging characters and a more complex plot. true tears has been much better at four episodes plot-wise than ef was at the same length, although, again, ef had its visual stylings to carry the day. It’ll boil down to taste as to which one individuals decide to like better than the other, although I have the feeling that ef is going to be far more popular than true tears ever will be.

One other thing to mention–the art. It’s so…pretty. NIshimura’s always been about the pretty (well, at least, he was about the pretty in Simoun, less so in Ranma 1/2, but the latter is from the 80s, so…) and it’s nice to see he’s still got a knack for stunningly rendered background visuals. It’s not quite as good as the faux-watercolor backgrounds of Simoun, but pair up the background art with the bold character art and you’ve got yourself a very pretty series indeed. And I like pretty.

We Have Nena Trinity Touchdown

Fanartists waste zero time getting in on the Kugimeister’s appearance, although they’ve had some time to toss ideas around.

Seriously, Kugimiya Rie in a Gundam series. And she has freckles. What kind of madness is this?

An awesome kind, that’s what.

Actual content to follow once Conclave-Mendoi decide they want to sub 16. I am waiting with an expression like this:

This hand of mine glows with an awesome power.

It’s been years since I last touched an episode of Mobile Fighter G Gundam, yet somehow (as part of my massive Gundam kick recently, for whatever reason that’s going on) managed to trick my brother into watching it with me, which gives me the perfect scenario for rewatching something: if I’m making someone else watch it with me, then I, at least, am more likely to stick with it for the long run in the rewatch process.

And, yes, G is every bit as awesome as I remember it, and Master Asia hasn’t even shown up yet. We haven’t gotten to the bits that make it my favorite Gundam series yet (that would be the three story arcs that deal directly with the Devil Gundam) but already I’m remembering why it’s great. Imagawa Yasuhiro is one of my favorite directors, for the very reason that he has a ton of fun doing whatever it is he’s doing. The silliness of G Gundam with its Lumber Gundam and Tequila Gundam (more Gundam designs should incorporate sombreros) is just infectious and even the episodic battles in between the story bits are highly enjoyable, sometimes just because Domon is awesome. I’ve always said that G is the least serious yet the most serious of the Gundam series, a dichotomy which is best easily explained after the series is finished. Yes, the series features Gundam designs bordering and oftentimes crossing the line of ludicrous (Nether Gundam, anyone?) but it’s as passionate and involving as any other Gundam series out there. It’s just not afraid to take itself lightly, a quality which makes any anime 100% better, especially when said anime involves giant robots duking it out.

The characters themselves are absolutely lovable, and some of the franchise’s best. Domon is a no-nonsense badass protagonist, and the rest of the Shuffle Alliance (Chibodee Crockett, George de Sand, Sai Saici, and Argo Gulski) just ooze awesome. From prideful American boxing champions to soft-hearted space pirates, G’s got it all going on. And the (in this rewatch, at least) still unknown Master Asia, is, of course, Master Asia. Everything in the series is kicked up to 11 and occasionally 12, making for incredible entertainment.

More Gundam series need to take themselves less seriously. I still can’t believe this was the first Alternate Universe Gundam series. You’d think Japan would’ve had a hissy fit or something. (America certainly did, but they saw G after W, which isn’t good in terms of what to expect from Gundam, and also got treated to a really bad dub).

In conclusion:

Feel the power.

Miyako Smiles More, Sure Sign of Imminent Earthly Peril

I swear, Miyako manages to be both cute and creepy at the same time. How does she do it?

Ghost Hound has remarkably improved since it started, when it was on the list of “intriguing yet somewhat uninteresting shows” from the fall season. It apparently just needed some leg room to set things up, as the plot (which we still don’t know much about, or what relation Kakuriko has to the real world, the plot, or anything else in existence) is moving right along towards the ineffable conclusion. I like the atmosphere it’s got–slightly creepy in spots, albeit nothing to have nightmares over; general “slice of life” feel, if a very weird life; and a touch of levity to counteract all the seriousness that’s going on. Throw in some subtle touches of character development that come close to Zettai Shounen levels (I’m not exactly sure what Zettai Shounen levels are, but anyone who’s seen both that and Ghost Hound probably know what I’m talking about, and hopefully have more vocabulary than I do on the matter) and you’ve got yourself a mix for a good show. I think I’ll wait until the whole thing’s over before I start judging it any more than I already have.

Halfway through, I still don’t know whether this and similar shows are quite for me, but I’m enjoying Ghost Hound well enough. I’m guessing I just don’t like atmospheric/mood pieces without some plot- or character-driven underpinnings to carry me through, but Ghost Hound has got some interesting things going on in the character side of things. I’m glad Production I.G. kind of forgot about making very pretty but very boring action-heavy material like Ghost in the Shell–they’ve somehow been on a roll with me since Seirei no Moribito premiered, jumping from that to Ghost Hound to Tokyo Marble Chocolate, for chrissakes. I dunno what came over them, but hitherto this point in history the only thing I’ve ever actually liked by them had been the first half of Otogizoshi, and even that wasn’t worth writing home about more than a brief mention in a long letter.

Also, I can’t be the only one thinking Higurashi no Naku Koro ni with all this talk about dams and corpses and so on. Maybe Ghost Hound is a prequel and we’re all about to be invaded by extraterrestrial beings.


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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