Archive for April 4th, 2008

The Tower of Druaga: “If you want to fight me, first you must defeat me!”

Today’s image slightly smaller than normal due to BOST TV being unable to provide larger-size HQ video files. I can tell you, though, that there is nothing quite like watching the first episode of Tower of Druaga on your portable video-playing device whilst driving around the rural countryside looking at high water levels with your family and trying really, really hard not to laugh obnoxiously loudly. Especially during the tentacle rape scene.

The first episode, of course, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anything whatsoever. It’s not even a good episode to judge whether or not you’d like the rest of the series. What it is, however, is a hilarious send-up, pastiche, and mockery of generic RPG plots, such as (gasp!) the one found in the Namco original game Tower of Druaga. It’s an incredible way to start a series, and, while I’m somewhat upset that the first episode didn’t really show us what the series was going to be like, I must admit, it is vastly entertaining. From the joke featured in the post title (which was one of the best moments of the episode) to the aforementioned tentacle rape scene, to the numerous overstaged and ludicrously overdramatic character deaths and general nonsense talking, it’s clear that, at the very least, the writers of the series are capable of pulling off humor extremely well. We only get to see about three minutes, total, of the reality of the series, however, but I’d assume that, if the humor is this good and well-executed and written, the rest of the series should be adequate, and possibly even much better than that.

I am still slightly worried that the series will become the typical Gonzo “let’s have an action-fest of a series” and forget to do other kinds of things along with it, such as be interesting to watch, but 1) it’s done by the Last Exile/Brave Story director, Chigira Koichi, and 2) I didn’t mind the style of the seven episodes of Romeo x Juliet I saw (but I’m a sucker for Romeo & Juliet in general, and it’s still back on my backburner of “things to do”), so, based on these two trends, I’m cautiously hopeful. I’m not expecting it to be a complex and involving character drama–I would be legitimately crazy to expect that–but, as it’s going to be about the fighting anyway, hopefully there’ll be some kind of hook to keep me interested. If they keep the spirit of the first episode alive and adopt a somewhat lighthearted tone throughout the rest of the series, rather than try to be drama, then we’ll probably be fine.

Interestingly, on the legality front, I opted to go for BOST TV, as it appears that they’re the ones responsible for the suntitling, and I don’t particularly trust Crunchyroll (although apparently they’re the ones offering the HQ downloads for a fee), but at any rate I purchased an episode of anime and watched it totally legal. I’m excited. As the BOST TV thing has a weird point system, and I didn’t know about the season pass voucher thing before I bought the first episode, I’ll have to spend a tad bit more extra on it, but that doesn’t bother me too terribly much, as this is a concept I have been pushing and pushing for, so I’m going to support it as much as I can. I’ll have to deal with low-quality encoded-for-PSP video files, too, but they are DRM-free video files, and much appreciated for that.

At this point, my prime concern isn’t whether Tower of Druaga is a good series or not, but whether Gonzo’s release strategy will succeed. I hope it does. I’d much, much rather pay a company money for the privledge of watching anime, rather than deal with a set of shady and unknown fansubbers who may or may not be making things up as they go along. It’s a risky thing Gonzo’s trying, but, for the sake of the industry, I hope Tower of Druaga succeeds. The other one they’re doing, Blassreiter, well, I know nothing about it, but hopefully it will attract enough of a paying audience to make this venture a good idea. And this is an idea that I think needs to succeed.

Someday’s Dreamers: Things That Are Important to a Mage

So on an almost random whim, and because, due to the implosion of Geneon, the entire series on DVD cost $30 at TRSI (plenty of copies left! Get yours today!), I picked up Someday’s Dreamers, alias Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto. I’ve meant to watch this series ever since it aired, but I somehow never got around to it. It aired in the crowded time when I was busily watching everything that had already been aired up to that point and that people said was good, which was quite a lot, and so it got overlooked. It’s been on my “check this out sometime” list for a while, and, spur of the moment, I decided to go for it. And now, after episode 2, I am glad I did this. I’ll be honest, I’m entirely a sucker for this kind of slow-paced slice-of-life series, but this is quite an exceptional slice-of-life series. Dare I invoke the potentially lethal Kamichu! comparison? It does, after all, seem to be a direct predecessor.

But first, a bit about the series to get you situated. Kikuchi Yume, your average country 17 year old girl, isn’t actually average. Instead, she was born with the ability to use Power (mahou). This, of course, makes her a mage, and, in this alternate universe, mages are strictly regulated by the Bureau of Mage Labor. For instance, we can’t have mages running around creating money out of thin air, can we? (I will give you three guesses as to what Yume does in the first episode, and the first two don’t count) So, Yume is sent, over the summer, to Tokyo to do intensive mage training.

It’s the perfect set-up for a slice-of-life series. In any slice-of-life series, you have to have a charming or otherwise interesting main character, be they Ginko from Mushishi or, in this case, Yume. Image of Yume showing off her Power:

It’s kind of hard to get a good look at her from there, but flashy magic powers are always fun to look at.

Yes, she has three ahoge. In fact, she seemingly deliberately encourages the development of the ahoge, as there are scenes where she does not have the triahoge. She is extremely warm, friendly, and all sorts of other things slice-of-life heroines should be.

The other key element of slice-of-life is the mood it generates, and Someday’s Dreamers creates an extremely effective calm mood. I looked up the director and I was fairly surprised: it’s Yamada Norie (which I cannot tell whether this is a male or female name, or possibly both; I’m going to presume female), who directed things like Boys Be…, Ai Yori Aoshi, and Zegapain (one of these things is not like the other…). The Ai Yori Aoshi credit, after seeing this series, makes sense–Ai Yori Aoshi is a series I have mixed feelings about  due to not finishing it, and am still unsure whether or not I should rewatch and complete it, but I can certainly see parallels from my vague memories of especially the first 4 episodes of Ai Yori Aoshi. Except there’s less nudity.

And the character art–oh, the character art. The original artist for the manga version, Yoshizuki Kumichi, did the DVD covers, and, upon opening the package and gazing upon the DVD covers, all I could think was “this is beautiful.” Yoshizuki’s art is soft and gentle and completely unassuming, and an extreme pleasure to simply look at. I found it difficult to decide which side of the cover to face outside, as I liked all six of the possibilities. The art in the anime is, of course, much simpler, but the character designer did an excellent job of capturing the feel of Yoshizuki’s original designs, and it’s relatively well-animated thus far.

I’ve only seen two episodes, so there’s not much else to report. The writing is quite good thus far, and watching these two episodes, I’ve found myself getting caught up in the moment and just relaxing, and appreciating Yume being her cute self. It’s a genuine kind of cute, rather than a forced cute (her seiyuu, Miyazaki Aoi, has a voice that could hardly be described as “cute”, but one which fits nevertheless), and I appreciate that. Cute isn’t cute when it’s crammed down your throat, a la Moetan, but in Someday’s Dreamers there is nothing forceful about anything in the series. And that’s a very good thing.


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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April 2008