Fate/Zero – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Fate/Zero

 

Related: Fate/Zero 2nd Season (included in review)

Fate/stay night (sequel)

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (alternate sequel)

Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel (alternate sequel)

Similar: The Future Diary

Basilisk

Psycho-Pass

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy Action

Length: 25 episodes (two seasons)

 

Positives:

  • Breaks many ties with Fate/stay night.
  • Main characters have complexity.
  • ‘Banquet of Kings’ episode.
  • More substance to the action.

Negatives:

  • Some jarring CG.
  • Still can’t handle exposition.
  • One-note minor villains.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Fate/Zero is the prequel to the Fate/stay night visual novel and created by a different team, which can only mean good things.

Instead of a harem protagonist, Fate/Zero selects Kiritsugu the ‘Mage Killer’, hired by one of the noble families, and married to their heir, to crush the competition with his servant Saber (the same one from Fate) in the war for the Holy Grail. His opponents are a mixed cast of mages, noble and common, as well as different iterations of Archer, Rider, Assassin, Lancer, Caster, and Berserker. Kiritsugu displays greater depth than Shirou within moments. First, by having a plan, and second, by showing smarts in his method of attack. One of my issues with Fate/stay night was having kids instead of adults when the latter make for mages that are obviously more powerful. Kiritsugu isn’t an idiot kid, nor are his opponents save one that I’ll talk of later.

As if by magic, the servants also have complexity of character. Saber is no longer a good character solely due to her backstory. She has convictions, motivations, and opinions – all the important servants do. One episode in particular has a scene called ‘The Banquet of Kings’ with Saber, Archer, and Rider – three kings – sitting down to discuss their views on what makes a great king. They challenge each other’s ideologies, Saber’s in particular. The dialogue is something the old author could never dream of. The strength of character writing is no surprise coming from Gen Urobuchi, writer of Psycho-Pass and Madoka Magica. (He also wrote Aldnoah.Zero, though we won’t speak of it here.)

Not everything is gold and diamonds. The first episode has several minutes of two geezers walking around in a circle expositing the world and their plan for the war. Truly a masterclass of bad expository writing. And someone has to explain the whole Fate franchise concept, yet again, in the usual clumsy fashion. The writing is smoother once you clear those reeds. Oh, except for two awkwardly placed episodes of backstory for Kiritsugu – they’re interesting, but don’t seem to know where to go in the story, so occur in the middle of an event.

As for characters, one of the mages is a serial killer to match his sadistic Caster servant, which is a thrilling addition to the war. Unfortunately, both master and servant alike are flat. What you see upon introduction is the same throughout. Now, they do at least have major impact on the story, but they could have had more to their characters. In a series where identity is everything, Caster’s identity doesn’t matter. Missed opportunity.

For a pleasant surprise, we turn to Waver, a young mage in over his head trying to prove himself equal to “pure” bloodlines when he joins the war, summoning Rider. He’s the one kid and justified in his inclusion. Furthermore, Rider doesn’t respect him and flicks Waver for all the stupid commands, nor should he as a great king from history who conquered much of the world. This is what I mean by taking a moment of thought to justify why your story/character/conflict is the way it is. The original author wouldn’t have thought of this disagreement. Far from being mean, Rider is a boisterous character, a lion of a man that brings needed comic relief alongside Waver. Rider is my favourite of the servants.

The action sees improvements, even if it doesn’t look as nice as Unlimited Blade Works, and while you could point to a couple dozen better anime for action, the stronger characters and smarter plans increase the tension, placing value on who lives and dies.

I wish I hadn’t followed the Fate watch order guide and listened to my instinct to start with Fate/Zero. I would have enjoyed this anime even more if I didn’t know certain details that carry over to the main series. Fate/Zero stands as the only Fate series worth your time unless you really want to see the Holy Grail War repeated ad nauseam.

Art – High

Fate/Zero still looks good without the flash of Unlimited Blade Works thanks to vibrant colours, better character design, and tighter choreography since that they don’t have cram in as many effects as possible. Now, some of the CG…ouch. Berserker looks hideous – a CG knight surrounded by a particle shroud, also in CG.

Sound – High

The VO is equally good in both languages; just needs a tighter script. Electric guitar action music, softer classical pieces, and ethereal vocals make for a solid soundtrack.

Story – High

Ten years before Fate/stay night, another Grail War raged between mages and their servants of myth and legend. Fate/Zero abandons most of the garbage from the original series in favour of complex characters and meaningful action.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Watch it. Defying the franchise, Fate/Zero stands above the swamp from whence its predecessors came. Start with Fate/Zero to avoid lesser series from spoiling anything.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Strong Lead Characters

Negative: None

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Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]

Note: Not to be confused with the old Unlimited Blade Works movie

 

Related: Fate/stay night (source – visual novel)

Fate/stay night (anime – alternate 1st arc)

Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel (alternate 3rd arc)

Fate/Zero (prequel)

Similar: The Future Diary

Basilisk

Darker than Black

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy Action

Length: 25 episodes (2 seasons), 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Stylish action.
  • Huge improvement over the visual novel.
  • Heroic Spirits have interesting backstories.

Negatives:

  • Fights lack substance.
  • Still has exposition and explanations in excess.
  • Villains let heroes live on a whim.
  • Doesn’t stick to its own rules.

(Request an anime for review here.)

We last left the franchise in the Fate/stay night visual novel, a mess of an artwork mired in exposition, sloppy writing, and worse sex. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works adapts the second arc of the visual novel, with Rin instead of Saber as the romance option and Archer taking the Heroic Spirit spotlight.

Protagonist Shirou summons Saber to participate in the Holy Grail War against other magi and their servants. By a matter of convenience, he teams up with Rin and her servant Archer.

The genericity of Shirou hasn’t changed. He’s your goody two-shoes harem protagonist but with a hero complex to make him an action harem protagonist. His plot armour from arc one makes less sense this time, and he becomes instantly powerful before the end – I believe they call this an ‘ass pull’ – and as such, is the worst holdover from the source material.

Thanks to a dramatic cut in exposition and filler scenes, Rin doesn’t wear out her welcome, though she is still an average tsundere with more stereotype than brains. She whines too much. The romance with her, though irrelevant to the plot, has no foundation (the horrendous sex scenes were seamlessly cut). Unlimited Blade Works is actually about Archer and his backstory, as Fate was Saber and her history.

Like before, the suspense comes from the Heroic Spirit’s identity, even more so with Archer because of his amnesia. I am torn on the result. On one hand, the backstory itself is a great idea, yet on the other, the present day component – the consequence of the backstory, if you will – is garbage. I can’t help but feel that Unlimited Blade Works would have been superior if it only had to take inspiration from the source, not the beat-for-beat story.

That said, this anime is an improvement in every area. Yes, it could do with less explaining of mechanics when it shows them later anyway, and moments of describing actions before doing them drool off the visual novel, but this is still so much better. You can’t imagine without having played the game.

With all the visual improvements, I am disappointed that the fights aren’t smarter. This anime often receives the name ‘Unlimited Budget Works’ for all the animation and effects it has, but as anyone who’s watched a Michael Bay film will tell you, effects don’t make great action. Fights look good, sure, but they aren’t smart. How rarely anyone kills a weak mage while their servant is away in battle. Villains allow good guys to walk away despite impressing upon us the victory condition of killing all other mages. It isn’t just one villain – several villains do this. It’s as though the author couldn’t think for more than two seconds about plausible scenarios for characters to escape. How many times now has it been, in anime, where the premise is about fighting to the death, yet doesn’t happen?

Each subsequent fight is less interesting than the previous. The tension wanes when you realise consequences aren’t what they promised. The hype lies. Rin tells us that Berserker will wreck everyone in a fight, yet the fight against him is incongruent with her words. The author again didn’t spare a thought to finding a creative solution in beating a seemingly invincible opponent. I mentioned inconsistencies between arcs in the VN review, which we can see in effect here, as Berserker was conveniently stronger in the first arc when the author needed to kill another character. The rule breaking is still alive and well.

Why are the masters kids when an adult mage would crush them? It’s also convenient that all the mages connect to Shirou in some way – another source material problem. Honestly, 90% of the problems in Unlimited Blade Works stem from the visual novel. With a little extra thought, a little extra planning, a little better dialogue, this could have been a great anime.

What does Fate/stay night look like without the lead weight of the visual novel? Find out next time in the Fate/Zero review.

Art – High

I love the triadic colour palette of red, blue, and bright yellow. Its vibrancy pops in motion – gone is the ‘OC, don’t steal’ character art. Great looking fights use CG and particle effects, though often at the expense of substance. Occasional bad CG such as the skeletons slaps your eyes.

Sound – High

The voice work is good, but I’m not a fan of several casting choices in English. The music complements proceedings, except OPs and EDs seem out of place.

Story – Medium

Seven mages summon seven Heroic Spirits of myth and history to fight for the Holy Grail. This is arc two of Fate/stay night, focused on Rin and Archer instead of Saber. Unlimited Blade Works salvages the best parts of the visual novel to create an entertaining, if not deep, action anime.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For anime action fans. If you love anime’s signature action of one-on-one fights then you will love Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, when able to overlook the story and writing problems. It isn’t necessary to watch the first arc unless you’re interested in Saber. Watch Fate/Zero first.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Fluid Animation

Negative:

No DevelopmentWeak End

Fate/stay night – Visual Novel Review

Related: Fate/stay night (arc 1 anime)

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (arc 2 anime)

Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel (arc 3 anime)

Fate/Zero (prequel anime)

 

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy Action Romance

Length: 45-60 hours (15-20 hours per arc, depending on reading speed)

 

Positives:

  • Good concept.
  • Starts well.

Negatives:

  • 50% word count in excess.
  • More telling than showing.
  • Idiot protagonist.
  • Useless ‘gamey’ elements.
  • Poor lore and mechanic explanations.
  • Circular dialogue.
  • World feels empty.
  • No basis to the romance.
  • Worst sex scene ever put to fiction.

Fate is a massive franchise, having mutated from a visual novel of three arcs into a tentacled monster of anime, games, and spinoffs. Due to its size and popularity, I followed a ‘watch order’ guide and started with the Fate/stay night visual novel since the anime Fate/stay night mashes all three arcs into one mess.

The story opens strong in the prologue with the red girl, Rin, a few character/world building scenes, and Rin summoning her servant Archer. We meet much of the human cast in efficient time and the stakes are clear. Seven mages will summon legendary figures from history or mythology to fight for the Holy Grail, granting a single wish. We also learn that a servant’s identity is of utmost importance, for knowing the hero is to know their weakness and ultimate weapon. Instead of names, they go by their class – Saber, Archer, Berserker, Rider, Assassin, Caster, and Lancer. (This cleared much confusion about why I had seen characters with the same names across the Fate franchise.) Typically, only the servant and master know the true name. Archer, however, can’t remember his identity.

So, we have the characters, the world, the stakes, interesting lore, a good concept, and a decent pace in a short period. The writing could use work, but it’s not bad.

Then the story resets once you start the first arc proper, titled Fate, where we now follow the actual protagonist, Shirou (introduced in the prologue), only to repeat the same story save a change or two, and dump a ton of exposition. The writing nosedives and the pacing stalls, which coupled with the bad art, makes Fate/stay night a difficult journey to complete.

First, Shirou is a rubbish character, only marginally better than your usual idiot harem protagonist. Fate/stay night is a harem of sorts, with each arc defined by which of the three girls Shirou pursues. And by pursues, I mean makes no effort to attract. He also gains free power when convenient for the plot.

Arc one centres on Shirou paired with his servant, the blonde knight Saber, who is one of the few good features of the story thanks to her backstory. The second arc, Unlimited Blade Works, has Rin as the love interest with Saber shifted to a minor character, which feels clumsy because she’s still crucial, yet forgotten most of the time in favour of Archer. Heaven’s Feel switches the romance to childhood friend Sakura. Each arc builds on the previous, so it’s important to play them in order if you want the full story, though expect a lot of repetition for the mechanics, rules explanations, and introductions. Characters also have inconsistencies across arcs.

Back to Shiro, much of the first act is girls fawning over him, when not expositing. An early scene has Shirou and three girls yammering on about him and food. I set the novel to auto, left for dinner, and returned to find then still at it. Almost all 15 days per arc has one of these ‘eating’ scenes that drones on for hours. These conversations don’t advance the plot or develop character either, often going in circles to repeat the same garbage until you want to choose one of the bad endings, just to end it all. They are filler, proven no more effectively than by their marked absence in the Unlimited Blade Works anime. There’s more food related scenes than action in this “action” series.

The exposition may be worse. Repeated exposition from the prologue aside, the way Rin explains the lore (exposition parrot is her main job) and mechanics is like a poorly written dictionary. Furthermore, the Fate series has these pointless game elements such as grades for character attributes and magic levels. What a lazy and binary technique of representing character power. Worse yet, they don’t matter. If the plot needs an A+ servant injured by a weak attack, then it will happen. Remove these statistics and nothing is lost. Instead, why not build the world. Fate/stay night gives the impression of having 20 people in existence. So many words, yet such an empty world.

Any editor can remove half the text with a cursory glance from all the filler. Even plot text is over written, full of stating the obvious and explaining an action just before doing it.

‘I should go to the kitchen.’

‘I go to the kitchen.’

‘I should eat something.’

‘I eat something.’

Imagine that, but with five times the words.

Arriving at the plot, matters improve little. After spending so much time establishing the rules, insisting upon the importance of character statistics and each servant’s power, Fate/stay night throws all the rules out the window and does whatever. I don’t imagine the writer bothered to edit for consistency. I don’t imagine he edited at all.

For a plot that’s about everyone fighting to the death, few characters actually fight to the death. I can’t remember how many times a good guy lives because a villain just lets them go. Hell, the loli girl, master of Berserker, captures Shirou and instead of killing him, takes him home to become her slave (of sex?). Of course he gets away, rendering the event pointless. The alliance between Rin and Shirou also makes little sense, stretching the limits of plausibility for why a girl, whose life training prepared her to crush mages and servants, would forget all that faster than a sneeze.

But, none of the above makes Fate/stay night a terrible visual novel. Amateurish, sure. Requiring an editor? Certainly. Only once you find the true purpose for this game’s creation can you witness its soul. Much like the Holy Grail isn’t what it seems, Fate/stay night isn’t an action series, nor is it a fantasy – well, yes, it is a fantasy, though not the sort one normally thinks of. All of this – the legendary heroes, the magic, the violence, the lore – serves as a self-insert fantasy for the author to get it on with the ladies.

If you are of innocent mind, then avert thine eyes and skip the next paragraph, for I have to describe the first “session of love” if I am to truly impress upon you the horrendousness of this text. The excuse to have sex is retardedly hilarious. Prepare yourselves (or your anus, in Rin’s case), we are about to enter the worst erotic fiction ever conceived.

After a lost battle, Shirou, Saber, and Rin flee to an abandoned house in enemy territory. Saber has little energy left and with Berserker on the hunt, they need to recharge her before the next fight. What’s the one surefire way to recharge a servant? You guessed it: have sex. Feeding her energy had never been a problem until now, but hey, we have to ram sex scenes in somehow. Saber is hesitant, so Rin must take charge and ready her for the ritual by lubricating the knight. Rin becomes an instant bisexual, Saber – the all-powerful Saber – a weak, quivering girl, whose lips say no but her body says yes. Then Shirou mans up to do his duty, despite being so totally against it all, and the self-insert fantasy enters full swing in an orgy of awkward prose, bad anatomy, and most importantly, cringe. The way actions and sensations are described gives the impression that the author had never had sex before.

These characters change into new people for the scene (except Shirou – he’s always a loser) to justify sex. I should mention that this forms the basis of Shirou and Saber’s romantic thread… This scene is so bad that I considered the idea someone had pranked me by modding my game with fan fiction. I didn’t know this was an eroge beforehand.

The second sex scene with Saber is vanilla, but full of, “No, you mustn’t…” “There’s no need to suck that…” “No, don’t touch me there…” The other arcs also have their share of ridiculous erotica, though none as hilarious as the Shirou-Saber-Rin bender. Like the exposition and food scenes, the erotica contributes nothing. The author has no sense of focus.

What does Fate/stay night look like when it isn’t about the sex? We’ll find out in the next review, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. Or better yet, when the author isn’t involved? See the Fate/Zero review after that.

Art – Very Low

The character art looks like amateur work you find on DeviantArt, as if the artist copied someone else. With no animation to contend with, the art has no excuse looking this cheap. A later port added some improved art shots.

Sound – Low

The music is bland, the voice work stiff.

Story – Low

Mages summon heroes of mythology and history to fight to the death for the Holy Grail. Fate/stay night’s good concept receives no help from the writer, who can’t do exposition, or romance, or pacing.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Avoid it…then again, you may want to play the first arc to see what horrific writing looks like. Fate/stay night is worse than the sum of its parts thanks to its atrocious technical writing, filler, and most particularly, the sex scenes. Watch Fate/Zero first, since this game spoils parts of that superior series.

Watched but Not Reviewed

For most of this site’s early reviews, I revisited anime I had already seen to build a solid foundation. However, rewatching so many episodes was time-consuming and in the end, I had to skip a number of series that were either too long or not interesting enough to warrant a review.

This article will be a list of brief reviews, of sorts, from memory as I consider whether it’s worth going back to any for full review. (I’ve likely forgotten a dozen more titles.)

Agent Aika

Agent Aika is the sole anime that’s honest about panty visibility with the length of anime skirts. Finding a safe for work image for this article was a challenge (the secret was in the camera angle…). Aika is some Charlie’s Angel-type working as a salvager and has a magical transformation – if you can call being molested to near nudity a magical transformation (too weird for words) – to fight off other groups. It’s a garbage show with more panty shots than sense, story, and substance combined.

Argento Soma

This is a weird one. I remember Argento Soma being similar to the animated film The Iron Giant, except that the giant is an alien and one girl falls in love with it (I think). The protagonist is some emo, which created this slow and depressing atmosphere that bored me. I barely remember Argento Soma.

Beyblade

Spinning top battles. The Japanese can turn any idea into an anime. Interestingly enough, Beyblade isn’t as out there as you would imagine. The Japanese play a spinning top duel game called Beigoma, which you can see here on Begin Japanology (love this show). Of course, you can’t issue commands to your Beyblade top as they can in the anime. Beyblade is about a collective people sharing in a delusion that you can yell at a spinning top to turn on the ‘Eye of the Tiger’, calling upon a spirit inside the top. This anime sucks. I ended up watching every episode in broken chunks each morning because of my younger brother.

Black Cat

A friend of mine was obsessed with Black Cat – ‘best anime ever’ obsessed. In the face of such obsession, I had to watch it. And…I still don’t get it a decade later. Why did he love Black Cat so much? Why? I never got a clear answer. This bounty hunter anime is bland, forgettable, with no reason for recommendation. All I properly remember of the story is one moment in the finale when a character transforms into a hideous blimp of a woman – literally a blimp – and a girl looks up and says, “Wow, so beautiful!” Still makes me laugh.

Blassreiter

The art style for Blassreiter drew my initial interest, but it was worth nothing in the end. The plot is similar to Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress with the protagonist infected by the cybernetic enemies, but in control of himself and his powers. Belongs in the slush pile.

Bleach

What a crapfest… No anime knows how to pad the story better than Bleach does. For those who haven’t seen this, the plot maintains momentum for two arcs ending in the reveal of the true villain, and what follows is nearly 300 episodes of padding. The filler is filler. The canon is filler. Everything is filler in Bleach. It throws one enemy after the other at Ichigo and company amid power resets every few seasons. Very Low rating.

Burn Up Scramble

Burn Up Scramble is a bad version of Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040.

Cardcaptor Sakura

Of all the anime on this list, Cardcaptor Sakura is one of the better titles. The first season is a typical monster-of-the-week format with Sakura capturing spirits for her card deck, but the second season goes into a proper story that works. Young girls will love Cardcaptor Sakura in particular.

Chobits

Another CLAMP title. A boy finds an abandoned android assistant, but unlike the other ‘Persocoms’, she seems to have consciousness. Despite powering on the android by going to second base, Chobits is a timid romance that meanders to no payoff. Typical shallow anime romance.

Crest of the Stars & Banner of the Stars

I liked this one. Crest of the Stars is a mix of Martian Successor Nadesico and Escaflowne following a human and an alien elf princess on the run amid a war between their peoples. I won’t revisit this because apart from having too many episodes, a dozen other anime do a better job today. Maybe if the visuals were appealing I would make the effort.

Devil May Cry

Where is Dante’s charm? Play the game instead.

Dragon Ball Z

I am not watching this behemoth again. I saw Dragon Ball Z more times than most in my teen years, but it has been many years since I’ve had anything good to say about this repetitive, plodding battle shounen. Goku ranks among the worst characters in fiction. The future Trunks standalone movie is good, being the only Dragon Ball Z story with consequences and no filler. I recommend that piece.

Geneshaft

Gunbuster is bad. Geneshaft is the same anime, yet somehow worse.

GetBackers

I have seen GetBackers two or three times already, so this should receive a full review, no? Well, I may have enjoyed it plenty an eon ago, but I can predict what I would think of it now. In this world, super powered humans work in pairs for various professions, (thieves, bounty hunters, bodyguards, typical shady jobs) clashing with other duos on every assignment. The powers are cool – glasses guy can force illusions upon others akin to Sharingan, which is a favourite power type of mine – the action is decent, and I recall hilarious comedy. Unfortunately, after several mission-of-the-week episodes, everyone enters a cyberpunk slum monolith controlled by an emo kid with tech powers, at which point it becomes boring. GetBackers does have the accolade of best use of sudden chibi art for protagonist Ginji.

Green Green

This belongs on the worst anime list. An all-boy school pervs on an all-girl school after they merge for ‘psychological stimuli’. I thought Green Green was hilarious in high school. I was also an idiot. Hey, at least the main relationship has more progress than most anime romances.

.hack//Sign

.hack was the original Sword Art Online. Except it wasn’t. An anime about a no-life kid trapped in a VR MMO with a Guardian item that destroys anyone who tries to attack him should be an action, intrigue, and wonder filled romp, a slam-dunk success. What we have instead is a bunch of noobs sitting around chatting about nothing. .hack is the most boring anime ever made. You’ll be a puddle of ooze by the end. That said, the soundtrack – the soundtrack! – oh boy, let me tell you about the soundtrack. 10 out of 10. Phenomenal. It deserves a better anime.

Kiddy Grade

Kiddy Grade is GetBackers but with lolis instead of men and without the comedy or charm. The main girl can create a whip by drawing with her lipstick – creative, to be sure, though not enough.

Maburaho

Garbage harem. A bunch of girls wants to shag harem protagonist guy because his special mayonnaise, when ingested vaginally, will produce powerful magical kids.

Maria Watches Over Us

Maria Watches Over Us started the yuritopia craze – anime set in all-girl schools (often Catholic, because, you know, all love a repressed girl gone naughty) where everyone is a lesbian and conflict doesn’t exist. As the yuritopia moniker suggests, these anime are snorefests. Neither sexy nor deep, neither engaging nor fun, Maria Watches Over Us has nothing going for it.

My-Hime

What an ugly anime. Clichés and a terrible protagonist destroy any appeal, even once you get past the art.

Noir

The early 2000s had many anime sporting girls/women with guns, usually with a sombre, psychological tone about their traumatised states of mind from all the killing. Noir, like its sister series, doesn’t quite hit the mark. It wallows too much in self-pity. Twenty-six episodes is too long for a story so thin on content.

Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva

I love the Layton games. Their charm, quirky characters, storybook art, mysteries, and puzzles make them a delight. Eternal Diva doesn’t succeed in many of these qualities. It looks like the games, but not much more. The mystery doesn’t engage as it should and the puzzle element feels clumsy. It’s okay, at most.

Read or Die TV

Three bookish sisters can control paper, which is one cool power and what attracted me to Read or Die. I wish it had substance and that the sisters had more than their one defining trait. I’m told the OVA prequel is superior. I may check that out.

Scrapped Princess

I went into Scrapped Princess thinking it was an adventure similar to Orphen or Fullmetal Alchemist. It’s not. Two warrior siblings escort their outcast younger sister on a rather dull adventure. I mostly remember the twist for the final act, which was a good idea, though the poor build up weakened its impact.

s-CRY-ed

s-CRY-ed, now this was my jam! I loved this anime. I don’t remember much of the plot. I think it was like Marvel’s Civil War, where anyone with powers must work for the government while rebel supernaturals live in a lawless zone, or some such. Regardless, the action was where it mattered. s-CRY-ed is wall-to-wall crazy action and ridiculous characters, to the best of my memory. With a title like s-CRY-ed it had better be. You know, I think I’ll give this a full review. It may shatter my fond memories, but perhaps it might be just as fun as I remember.

Searching for the Full Moon

This was in the top 10 on some anime database a decade ago, so of course I had to watch it. Gee willikers, I was in for a great time! Only 52 episodes? Give me more! … A few episodes in, I wanted to end it all in a hail of bullets. Searching for the Full Moon is about a little girl with throat cancer whose dream is to be a popstar. Lucky for her, the shinigami that come to collect her soul instead decide to transform her into a 16 year old so she can sing. Apart from embodying the usual emotionally manipulative schlock of its genre, Searching for the Full Moon teaches awful morals to little girls, the target audience. Forget hard work, effort and merit – if you wish hard enough, everything will be okay! Watch Kodocha instead.

Stellvia of the Universe

Geneshaft but with a slice of life leaning, Stellvia of the Universe is a sleeping drug – a mercy, if you ask me, with that character design. This anime should have had that ‘cosy’ feeling I love from the likes of Gundam SEED. It doesn’t.

Suzuka

Suzuka was the first anime I streamed online. Back then, studios would put entire series on YouTube to watch for free. The ease of access made me watch all 26 episodes in a day, even though it was your average high school drama. Worst part? It’s incomplete. You have to read the manga, which I’ve heard takes all sorts of dramatic turns.

Vandread

I’m fairly certain Vandread was in the first 10 anime I watched. I’m not sure why I chose this above all other great titles available. Must have been a random choice. I completed both seasons in quick succession because it was anime. I don’t know what I would think of Vandread today. The premise screams of trash. Men and women have lived on separate planets for generations (they reproduce through cloning, if I recall), becoming alien to each other to the point of going to war. An incident forces a crew of men onto the same ship as a crew of women for some comedy hijinks. Perhaps I’ll revisit Vandread when bored.

Witchblade

Yes, Witchblade is based on the American comics featuring a woman with the minimum amount of coverage not to fall in the ‘nude’ category. Unlike Agent Aika however, Witchblade is a decent anime. It has a solid protagonist in the mother doing all she can for her daughter as they stay on the run from the government and evil organisations. She can transform into the Witchblade, which makes her a target. This is worth your time if you want some fun action with an older protagonist that is easy on the eyes. Medium rating.

Wolverine

Marvel licensed out several properties for anime conversion at one time. They are all straightforward adaptations without any surprises, incorporating Japan as the location, to forgettable success. These Marvel anime are too generic. Except for Blade – that’s straight trash.

You’re Under Arrest

This police comedy comes from the same author as Ah! My Goddess. It’s very much a comedy of its time, the 90s. Leave it in the archives unless you love that era.

Yu-Gi-Oh!

It’s time to duel! Alright, here’s what you do: watch a season or just a few episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh to get a feel for its ludicrous world of a children’s card game. Then, go watch Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series. That fan series made by one guy is comedy gold up to the conclusion of the main story. As for the anime, it is goofy fun designed to sell you on the real card game. I’m unsure if the overdramatic duels are intentionally or accidentally hilarious.

Zoids

I have reviewed Zoids: New Century Zero, a fun battle anime about 3-on-3 duels with robot dinosaurs. Zoids proper features an ongoing adventure story instead of the battle format. Typically, that’s a good idea…if you have a good story and likeable characters. Zoids is a forgettable shounen you should forgo in favour of New Century for some genuine fun.

 

So, that’s the list, excepting Neon Genesis Evangelion, whose review is on the way. Only the insanity of s-CRY-ed tempts me to go back, and perhaps Vandread – that premise must result in a so-bad-its-good anime, surely. As for the rest, I’d rather venture into new territory than retread old ground I probably wouldn’t have much fun with today. My ‘plan to watch’ list is long enough as it is. Speaking of, I’m devising a technique to clear a large chunk of the backlog in a month or so once my current work is complete. Having 200 titles waiting in line makes me anxious. I need a leap in progress. And soon.

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Jin-Roh

 

Similar: Akira

Ghost in the Shell

Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Drama

Length: 1 hr. 42 min. movie

 

Positives:

  • Some good visual elements.
  • Lovely music.

Negatives:

  • Drab colours.
  • Metaphors are on the nose.
  • Thin on content.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Mamoru Oshii’s Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade is an introspective film hinged on a metaphor of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. Constable Kazuki Fuse is traumatised after witnessing a terrorist girl detonate to avoid capture amid riots in an alternate history Japan. As an officer of the panzer troopers, an armoured ground force reminiscent of the video game Killzone’s Helghast, his change in behaviour mandates retraining and puts him in the middle of the conflict between the Capital Police and ordinary police forces. During his recovery, he grows close to the sister of the very terrorist girl who died before him.

This premise of a dystopian Japan, riots everywhere, Helghast-like officers clashing with police, and suicide bombers paints an intense portrait of a film. You’re probably imagining Akira. In truth, Jin-Roh couldn’t be further from intense. This slow, methodical film set in a nation without colour, without life, wants to evoke depression inside the viewer. Once vibrant greens and reds have faded. The world feels ‘Soviet’ where the higher ups have absolute power, giving no hope to the people.

Kazuki roams with no purpose. The few glimpses of life spark during his moments with the sister, but even those are drops in the calm ocean.

I am sad to say that Jin-Roh doesn’t succeed in evoking much emotion, nor does it engage the viewer. As I opened with, the story is a metaphor for ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, which Oshii handles without an ounce of subtlety, for every second scene makes a simile or draws a motif to wolves and the fairy tale. He’s so obsessed with the metaphors and motifs that he forgets to develop the characters and the world in which they live. The story never gives a sense of why anyone does their jobs or what they hope to accomplish in this world nearing anarchy.

Oshii’s masterpiece, Ghost in the Shell, has one of my favourite introspective moments in anime when Motoko Kusanagi glides through the streets of New Port City, so one would imagine that a film with more of this reflection would be a personal treat for me. What made that moment in Ghost special was its placement among scenes of intense action and intrigue. The story slowed down with a purpose. Jin-Roh is perpetually slow.

You could take almost any scene from this film and it would be interesting when seen standalone, similar to watching that scene from Ghost by itself. It’s once you realise that the film has almost nothing but this sluggishness repeated for an hour and a half that it becomes boring. It needs balance.

Rather than make me care for Kazuki’s plight, Jin-Roh had me crossing my fingers for another riot.

Art – High

The art is effective at evoking a dystopian atmosphere, but the much-muted brown palette becomes dull when it’s all there is. Characters could use more detail. Most of the animation budget went into people being riddled with bullets.

Sound – Medium

Voice work – fine. Music – lovely, tragic.

Story – Medium

A special unit officer reconsiders his position in life after witnessing the suicide death of a terrorist girl amid enforcement politics. Jin-Roh’s sacrifice of everything to convey its ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ motif limits its appeal and quality.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For fans of the slow and introspective ONLY. Seriously, if you don’t love, and I mean love, slow pieces with near-no story, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade will bore you to death.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

Anime and Manga Reviews