Tag Archives: Action

Often high in violence and fast-paced. Not necessarily gory, though can be.

Real Drive – Anime Review

Japanese Title: RD Sennou Chousashitsu

 

Similar: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Serial Experiments Lain

Time of Eve

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Action Science Fiction

Length: 26 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Good music.

Negatives:

  • The teens.
  • Jarring sexiness.
  • Lacks world building.
  • The virtual world isn’t interesting.

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Masamune Shirow of Ghost in the Shell fame steps up into a lead production role to bring us Real Drive, a science fiction series that brings exploration of the human creature to a younger audience.

I never would have known that this came from Shirow had I not glimpsed his name in the credits on Wikipedia when doing background research. Real Drive feels like someone tried to imitate Shirow without understanding what makes Ghost in the Shell, or more specifically, Stand Alone Complex so good.

We find ourselves in 2061 AD when a virtual network called “the Metal” has linked human consciousness on a global scale. However, security leaks and data breaches have begun to affect people’s minds beyond the virtual and into the real world. The young Minamo finds herself at the forefront of the investigation after she pulls Masamichi back from a failed dive into the Metal. She is to work alongside her brother Souta, the android Holon, and other investigators to find solutions.

Shirow’s first mistake was Minamo. I haven’t seen Ghost Hound, Shirow’s young adult horror anime, so I don’t know if he succeeded there, but he doesn’t seem to know how to write using or for teenagers.

I hate all the young characters in Real Drive. Their inclusion makes no sense in this, let alone having one as protagonist. She barely has anything to do with the Metal, which is the core of the story. When Minamo hangs out with her friends, usually at a dessert café, it feels included because “you need to have that in a young adult anime or it won’t be relatable,” said Shirow, not knowing what he’s talking about. Her brother would have made for a better protagonist. He is a young counterpart to the old Masamichi, is a lead diver for the Metal, has the romantic subplot, and has a justified presence.

Also, what is with the “sexiness” at random moments? You have the usual panty shots – bad panty shots aren’t a surprise anymore, so whatever – alongside weirdly timed instances of characters trying to act sexy. For example, when an old woman is in agony, possibly dying, during episode one, her granddaughter/assistant (?) makes sure to pose cutely with her arse in the air. “Old woman is dying, so let’s focus on the teen arse and have her turn like she’s in lingerie commercial,” said someone during production. “Get on it stat!”

Wait, it gets weirder. When the chairwoman of this Artificial Island video calls the investigation team, she presents herself as though she’s ready to ask Leo to draw her like one of his French girls. Why? What tone were they going for? Is there some hidden satire I’m missing? Shirow had a fair amount of eroticism in his Ghost in the Shell manga, and it’s adaptation weren’t shy either, so perhaps he felt obligated to have some erotic element in Real Drive. It doesn’t work here – more funny than sexy.

Next, we come to Shirow’s other big mistake, the virtual world itself. The Metal is incredibly boring. Remember Luke Skywalker floating in the batca tank in The Empire Strikes Back? Ever held your breath inside a swimming pool? Well then, you’ve experienced all the Metal has to offer. It isn’t engaging to watch people floating in water occasionally attacked by bubbles (!) as a substitute for action. Why didn’t he use marine life as proxies for viruses and data breaches? A monstrous, digitally warped shark is more frightening than bubbles. At most, we get some graphics in the environment and corruption on a character’s wetsuit. Do you know why Hollywood makes hacking sequences with effects, progress bars, and furious typing? Because real hacking is reading a bunch of text, which isn’t engaging.

I can’t wrap my mind around the notion that no one at production saw the Metal and pointed out that it‘s a load of nothing. The best scene in Real Drive is the very first, set in the past when a dive turns catastrophic. There is real action. After that, dives are mind numbing.

The vagueness of the overall plot compounds this dullness. For many episodes, Real Drive is about solving virtual problems with no concrete goal. You can’t have a non-episodic crime series and say it’s just about solving crimes. You need to be more specific. Which crime? Is the goal to ultimately catch the Seattle Reaper? Shirow already knows this – Stand Alone Complex is about catching the Laughing Man – so I’m surprised at the fault here. This gives the impression that he had an idea – “I want a series about solving virtual crimes” – but didn’t flesh it out, get at the core of his idea. I doubt Real Drive would have received the green light had it not had the name “Masamune Shirow” attached.

Art – Medium

What is with the doughy women? Every female character has extra dough packed on, even those that are said to be thin. I suspect that the artist has a fetish for “thicc” women, as the android Holon, designed to have the ideal female physique, is definitely for those who want to get down with the thiccness. The world has a lovely design akin to a futuristic paradise island, but the virtual side is plain water.

Sound – Medium

The music boasts a great orchestral soundtrack. However, the sound mixing is horrendous at times. In episode two, a scene of Minamo whining to her brother about breakfast has building tension music from the likes of Fantasia. Fire the mixer. The acting is fine.

Story – Low

A team of investigators dive into a global consciousness known as the Metal to resolve problems of this virtual world. The Metal is dull, the teenagers are superfluous, the sexiness makes no sense, and the plot offers little reason to keep watching Real Drive.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Don’t bother. Real Drive is a poor man’s Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex…made by the same man.

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

Positive: None

Negative: None

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City Hunter – Anime Review

Japanese Title: City Hunter

 

Related: City Hunter 2, 3, ’91 (sequels – included in review)

Angel Heart (spin-off)

Similar: Black Lagoon

Golden Boy

Trigun

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Action Comedy

Length: 140 episodes (4 seasons), 2 OVA, 3 movies

 

Positives:

  • Ryo is great.
  • The humour.
  • Moments of emotion for balance.

Negatives:

  • Too long for such a small overarching plot.
  • Animation budget stretched thin.

(Request an anime for review here.)

No woman is safe from Ryo Saeba. Whether ally, villain, or stranger, he will flirt them into submission. This gun for hire only takes on the hottest of female clients. After all, the best ladies deserve the best gunslinger in the land to solve their dangerous problems. But who protects the ladies from Ryo? His partner Kaori and her trusty giant hammer, of course.

Angel Heart, a spin-off of City Hunter, was one of my first anime reviews and I noted that after the initial serious 13 episodes, that anime suddenly shifted to an episodic structure with a focus on goofs and gaffs. I thought that odd. Having completed City Hunter, now I see why Angel Heart made the shift, matching the tone of original series.

Each episode or two has Ryo take on a new client, always female and always in life-threatening danger. This follows the standard episodic structure, going from case to case, helping people and taking out gangsters, blue-collar crooks, and creeps (look who’s talking) with gunfights and explosion abound.

One job has him acting as his favourite actress’s manager to protect her from someone trying to kill her on set. He keeps yelling “Cut!” whenever her co-star goes to kiss her or do a love scene. The director grows so fed-up with the interruptions that he just lets the camera roll and incorporates Ryo’s antics during action scenes into the film. I love it. Ryo is such a great character. He makes the series and is the core reason to watch. If you don’t enjoy him, then I wouldn’t bother with City Hunter.

He’s an expert marksman to a ludicrous degree. He hits insane shots, including down the barrel of a villain’s gun and shooting the exact same spot a dozen times at range. You have to suspend disbelief, but it works thanks to the humour.

Not everything is comedy, mind you. There are moments of emotion, and while not heavy enough to break your heart, they are an effective change of pace thanks for Ryo’s voice actor. Akira Kamiya (also of “Omae wa mou shindeiru” fame) is great at switching between goofy and serious instantly, almost as if they swapped actors. It’s impressive.

As a side note, City Hunter has received more adaptations than seemingly any other anime. Last month, I watched the Korean drama of City Hunter and none of it was familiar. Korean Ryo was some serious Robin Hood figure, didn’t chase the ladies once, and the goofs were missing. I was so confused that I had to go back to the original City Hunter anime to check of the K-drama fit in any way. It didn’t.

I can easily see City Hunter becoming a comfort anime to some. Because it doesn’t require much attention or emotional investment, it is a stress-free experience. It’s entirely adult cast also provides something different from modern offerings.

However, if you don’t feel like 140 episodes, I leave you with this amazing clip from the Chinese City Hunter movie starring Jackie Chan.

Art – Medium

The art is classic 80s, especially the women who look fine, but the animation feels stretched to cover the numerous episodes.

Sound – Medium

Ryo’s actor is perfect for the role and the women have the right mature sexiness. The music is classic 80s anime, much like the art.

Story – Medium

A womanising gun for hire only takes on female clients. Using his unmatched skill, he protects them with his life and he could perhaps seal the deal in the process, if not for his partner with a ten-ton hammer. Fun episodically, light on story in the long run, City Hunter is best taken in small doses over a year.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For old anime fans. City Hunter doesn’t have much in the way of overall plot or a reason to keep watching beyond your fondness for the characters. As such, if you do find yourself liking Ryo’s antics, prepare to settle in for a long and comfortable cruise.

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

Positive: None

Negative: None

Durarara!! – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Durarara!!

 

Related: Durarara!!x2 Shou, Ten, and Ketsu (sequels)

Similar: Baccano!

K

Darker than Black

Death Note

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Action Mystery

Length: 24 episodes

 

Positives:

  • High visual and audio production values.

Negatives:

  • Excess dialogue.
  • Get to the point already!
  • Poor structure and storytelling.
  • Many characters have no purpose.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Durarara is Baccano, but bad. I consider few anime that I’ve finished as a waste of time. Even the worst anime has value to me, for it gives something to discuss and lessons to learn in character and storytelling. This is one of the few exceptions. A chore to finish, an effort to enjoy, and with little to discuss or learn, Durarara was a waste of time.

The story focuses on the legend of the Black Rider, a headless motorbike rider that prowls the streets of Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district amid increasing gang activity. Mikado is caught up in the commotion when he witnesses the Black Rider on his first day in Tokyo. He will rely on friend and failed flirt Masaomi to guide him through the supernatural events and all manner of strange characters.

Durarara doesn’t open with great promise that derails later on. This is a case of never showing any promise to begin with, leaving us waiting for when it will get to the point, show us it purpose. It seems to do everything it can to avoid showing us its story, as if under the misapprehension that by doing this, it will make the final revelation a masterstroke.

Durarara wants to be character driven with its large cast, each exhibiting grey qualities, which is one of the elements that made Baccano a success. However, it wastes far too much time repeating conversations where characters explain their motivations. Because so little time is spent on events to drive story, characters don’t have much opportunity to show us who they are. As a result, they have to tell us and then repeat it again later. This is only for major characters. Minor characters, on the other hand, don’t even exposit or discuss events. They chat about random nonsense that tests one’s patience. There is so much excess dialogue.

All of this makes Durarara comes across as more slice of life than action.

Most story is end loaded in the final few episodes. When the big revelations about character identities and gang power plays come out, the series goes, “While all those useless characters where chatting about whatever, these other characters were secretly manoeuvring behind the scenes. Surprised you, didn’t I?” Yes, I’m surprised – surprised that you managed to squeeze out any story at all.

I had wanted to watch Durarara for the longest time after Baccano, one of my first reviews, hoping to find a similar experience. What a letdown. Had the characters been close to the level of Baccano’s cast, I likely would have enjoyed it despite the poor story, but these aren’t interesting. One guy’s gimmick is getting angry at the slightest provocation. It’s funny the first time, sure, but it’s the same joke every episode. Grow some dimension! The black Russian advertising his sushi restaurant on a street corner is also amusing, yet that joke too grows old.

Everyone is forgettable save for perhaps the Black Rider searching of her head. Bringing the Dullahan myth to modern Tokyo on a bike instead of a horse is a cool idea. Her story is decent as well, though she only has material for a few episodes – not enough to carry the team.

This anime was a personal choice I wanted to watch amidst the reader requests. I was certain this would be a hit. I don’t blame the production crew – Durarara looks and sounds great. The source light novel is a mess to begin with, as are the Baccano light novels, incidentally, which make me more impressed with the latter’s anime adaptation.

The first season wraps up its plot, so I have no attraction to watch the sequels. I usually finish every direct sequel for my reviews, but I won’t bother with Durarara.

Art – High

Durarara uses the same style as Baccano, crazy opening included (without the great song, though), has great animation, and with normal yet distinct character designs. However, background characters are often greyed out – budget or style?

Sound – Medium

The acting is great, in either language, but the script is so damn bloated. Characters repeat themselves often and minor character dialogues are a waste of time. The ED is catchy.

Story – Low

The new kid in Tokyo finds himself mixed up in gang wars amidst events involving the mysterious Black Rider, a supernatural biker in search of her head. A single strand of good story resides among the tangle of threads that is the mess called Durarara.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Don’t bother. Durarara takes such effort to enjoy that I would recommend almost any other anime instead.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Poor PacingShallow

Outlaw Star – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Seihou Bukyou Outlaw Star

 

Related: Angel Links (spin-off)

Similar: Cowboy Bebop

Trigun

Space Dandy

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Action Adventure Comedy

Length: 24 episodes, 2 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Creative art.
  • Surprisingly good dub.
  • Sense of fun.

Negatives:

  • Melfina is empty.
  • The catgirl is irritating.
  • Never hits a high note.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Combine Trigun with Cowboy Bebop and you have Outlaw Star. While not as good as either, it is not without merit. Nostalgic art and a mix of samurai, cat girls, sorcerers, pirates, bounty hunters, gunslingers, cowboys, and cyborgs make for an unusual universe.

Gene Starwind, sufferer of space sickness, wants to become a space pilot but remains earthbound as a gun-for-hire with partner James Hawking. They take the simple job of escorting a beautiful woman with a suitcase, only to get more than they bargained for. The woman isn’t an innocent dame – she’s a grizzled outlaw – and the suitcase doesn’t contain her clothes and unmentionables. Inside is a girl called Melfina, asleep, naked, and hunted by several factions. They escape together aboard the advanced Outlaw Star to survive and find the mysterious ‘Galactic Leyline’.

For the most part, Outlaw Star pits Gene and company against one of the aforementioned groups each episode. Races, heists, a wrestling tournament, and space battles are a mere sample of the adventures on which they embark. Early on, they clash with the cat people of the Ctarl-Ctarl Empire and find themselves burdened with the company of the most annoying character in the universe, Aisha Clan-Clan (yes, everything in cat society has a duplicated word name. Yes, it does get annoying). Even her introduction is idiotic. She argues with Gene over right of way in space! She knows that space is an infinite nothingness, right? After failing in her mission, she seeks revenge against Gene, which she reminds us every episode with her screeching voice, before joining the team in search of the Leyline.

I suppose that her high-energy personality was to counteract Melfina, who has no personality. Melfina is yet another example of a writer believing that quiet plus introverted must be boring. At least she has a purpose in the story. That’s something, I guess?

Characters and the Leyline, which I will get to in a moment, are the primary components holding Outlaw Star back. Gene is too much your typical space gunslinger (the space sickness gag lasts a couple of episodes), James is little more than his babysitter (most of his dialogue is warning Gene not to do something), and the samurai woman that joins later is as you would imagine on first impression. None are bad – except Aisha and the empty Melfina – but when you have Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, or Firefly in the live-action realm sitting right next to this anime, it’s hard to compete. Throw in the original Star Wars, Gundam SEED, Star Trek if you want something more measured, and you realise that great sci-fi with everyone on a single ship needs a great crew.

As for the Galactic Leyline, said to hold the knowledge of the universe, it isn’t an interesting goal. For one, it doesn’t fit into the rest of the series. You have this adventure series of gunfights and space battles for 23 episodes and then it turns into an exploration of the existential. The story never cared about themes of knowledge or existentialism before this. It doesn’t fit.

Outlaw Star plays its best cards during self-contained adventures over an episode or two. It’s worth your time for a few such adventures. If you want to go for the long haul, select one of the other titles I’ve mentioned in this review. Except Firefly because that was cancelled. Kidding, great show, wish it had more.

Art – High

Outlaw Star looks great, particularly in action scenes. I love the old school feel of its hand drawn art and world design.

Sound – Medium

The first ED may be one of my favourites of all time. I love the gentle song accompanied by gorgeous single-colour art sketches. The dub is surprisingly good for the era.

Story – Medium

An odd bunch of space farers gather aboard the Outlaw Star as they get up to all sorts of adventures against catgirls, mercenaries, and assassins. Outlaw Star is a space adventure of fun and action that doesn’t go for the high notes.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For fans of older anime. Outlaw Star won’t entice among all the glitz and glam of modern anime, but if you want to return to a simpler time, a time of space ships and space babes, then try this.

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

Positive: None

Negative: None

Assassination Classroom – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Ansatsu Kyoushitsu TV

 

Related: Assassination Classroom Season 2

Similar: Great Teacher Onizuka

Kill la Kill

My Hero Academia

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Comedy

Length: 22 episodes, 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • The occasional good joke.

Negatives:

  • Squandered premise.
  • Repetitive in plot and humour each episode.
  • OP is cancer.
  • Modern generic character design with little animation.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Class of delinquents 3-E has one task before graduation: kill their teacher, Koro-sensei! This isn’t an easy task when the teacher is a yellow octopus alien with super speed, god-like strength, and seemingly no weakness. Should they fail, Koro-sensei will rend Earth apart as he did to the Moon.

Assassination Classroom should be a slam-dunk success. The premise is so ludicrous that failure seems impossible, and yet they managed the screw it up. The humour doesn’t work, repetition drills the mind, and a confused identity results in an anime I wouldn’t recommend to anyone.

Let’s start with the humour. Half of the comedy is ‘lol random’ and other half is predictable, going for the obvious joke. Assassination Classroom runs out of material within two episodes. Each episode features copies of the following jokes: students surprised at Koro-sensei’s speed despite seeing it every day (their reactions fill what feels like half the dialogue), kids being idiots, and the slutty teacher doing something bimbo related. None of the characters are interesting enough, largely owing to no personalities or memorable characteristics, so you can’t lean on them for enjoyment as you could in the likes of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. Never underestimate the power of good characters to hang out with. The students of 3-E are supposed to be the worst students, yet we never see proof of this, which is a missed opportunity, as that should be their unique selling point and source of comedy. They’re simply generic.

Assassination Classroom tries to teach a moral each episode through Koro-sensei to his students, commentating on the intense and overbearing nature of studies in Japan. He helps them in their assassination attempts – a recurring joke that isn’t as funny as it sounds – and mentors them in life, despite his threat on the world. The aim is to evoke emotion when he is the only teacher that gives these delinquents a chance. Don’t kid yourself, Assassination Classroom, you haven’t earned the audience’s trust to start moralising about life. How are we supposed to take any of these lessons seriously when your poorly handled humour undermines the message? Do you really believe anyone will become a better person from hearing this tripe? Try applying effort next time.

There is no tension, if that’s what you’re looking for after reading the impending doom premise. There are no consequence, not even in a comedic way. A suicide bomber in episode one survives his detonation because Koro-sensei shields him at the last millisecond. It would have been much funnier as a dark comedy like Hot Fuzz, but that would require talent.

Each element of Assassination Classroom is in competition with the other. It can’t decide if it’s a comedy, a death game, a commentary on Japanese education, or about assassinations. These aren’t mutually exclusive elements – a decent author can handle easily – yet here they feel like a fart during a dramatic death scene.

Assassination Classroom doesn’t sell its concept whatsoever and is such a failure in execution that you shouldn’t give it a minute of your life. I have an idea: watch Hot Fuzz instead.

Art – Low

Here we have the modern generic designs for characters, just as Zegapain had a decade ago. The animation is cheap, static, often using the patented Dragonball Z teleporting action.

Sound – Low

The acting is passable with nothing to say. The opening sequence could kill Koro-sensei with cancer.

Story – Very Low

A classroom of students must assassinate their alien teacher before he destroys the world. Assassination Classroom has a potentially hilarious premise executed by repetition and bad humour.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Skip it. Assassination Classroom is a waste of time unless you love seeing the same bad jokes every episode.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Horrendous ActionIncoherentNot FunnyRubbish Major Characters