Tag Archives: Anti-Hero

The protagonist or a prominent character does whatever it takes for the greater good without allowing himself or herself to turn to the dark side. Batman, Sagara from Full Metal Panic, and yes, even Godzilla fit the anti-hero mould.

Terror in Resonance – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Zankyou no Terror

 

Similar: Death Note

Psycho-Pass

Monster

Eden of the East

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Length: 11 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Compelling premise.
  • Love the soundtrack.
  • Tackles some concepts rarely covered.

Negatives:

  • Muddled motivations and actions.
  • Main antagonist is garbage.
  • “Geniuses.”
  • Riddles solved easily.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Why would you do this to me? Why would you set up so well, promise so much and then tear it away? You are tearing me apart, Lisa Terror in Resonance!

A terrorist bombing leaves Tokyo in shock, for the only clue the police have is an internet video of two masked people calling themselves ‘Sphinx,’ presenting a riddle on the whereabouts of the next bomb. Plutonium also went missing from a nuclear facility six months ago. Lisa witnesses two teenage boys, Nine and Twelve, from her school planting toys stuffed with explosives. They give her a choice: become an accomplice or die. Thinking her life unable to get any worse than it already is, she joins them.

So, teenagers as terrorists – that’s interesting. An emo girl roped into the operation – could be good. Shame it isn’t. The worst is that Terror in Resonance seems good as your watching it, but in the latter half when they reveal the secrets and motivations, it retroactively contaminates elements that seemed solid.

Most notably is the motivation behind these edgy teens. I won’t give anything away, but it’s imbecilic. A thousand ways come to mind that are better at changing the world for the better than random bombings. To give an analogy, imagine someone killing puppies. You guess he’s evil. But, ah, yes, it’s because these puppies are being tortured and killing them is mercy. That makes sense. Wait, you think, why not free them? Well, they can’t survive without anyone to care for them, so it’s better they die now than starve in the cold. That makes sen—why not give them to somebody? Surely, there must be other avenues to try before euthanasia. Terror in Resonance doesn’t even ask these questions. It goes straight to the nuclear option, made worse when you’re told these kids are geniuses.

That’s another thing – the “intelligence” of characters and strategies is idiotic. Take the first riddle (‘Sphinx’ motif at play). It’s easy to solve with a quick Google search (or Yahoo, as is popular in Japan) and I’ve heard it before. Yet the detective in charge never thinks of that.

Later, they introduce Five, a “genius” girl working for the FBI, to catch Nine and Twelve. If the quirky naming scheme wasn’t obvious enough, Resonance wants to be Death Note. Nothing wrong with that. But to draw inspiration from another piece, one must understand said piece, particularly what made it succeed. The Resonance writer seems to think that throwing random crazy and nonsensical mental duels at the story was Death Note’s secret.

She has edge and crazy instead of character. Yes, L was an oddball in Death Note, but that’s on top of his depth. Five’s motivations make no sense, as every move she chooses puts her further from the objective of recovering the plutonium. One duel has Five face the boys in a shopping centre. Her team has eyes everywhere, while the boys must navigate the surveillance in a grid like a chessboard. It’s nonsense. Especially once you realise no one needs to play this convoluted game. I assume the writer thought the scene needed some hook, some quirk to draw the audience and forced in the cliché chess angle.

I almost forgot Lisa – as the plot did (ba-dum tss). Each episode, I kept wondering about her purpose to the story, as the camera occasionally cut to her moping in the hideout or around town. She has none. She leapt at Twelve’s invitation, yet is unwilling to partake in the bombings. Resonance’s main theme is cycle of abuse and if one would break the cycle when given power of one’s abuser. She’s a concentrated proxy of this cycle, but with so little personality and impact, her metaphorical role amounts to nothing, like all edgelords. Cut her from the story!

The writer muddled the message by trying to make everything more complicated than necessary. It didn’t need all the Death Note touches – should have been itself. These kids want to change the world through extreme means; however, their actions are confusing. So many better decisions could have had higher efficacy. Terror in Resonance’s art, music, and concepts are better than the story itself.

Art – High

Terror in Resonance has nice clean art and animation, rarely relying on static shots. Colours pop.

Sound – Very High

I love the soundtrack, from the ethereal OP and ED (I hated skipping them twice when pressed for time) to the instrumental background music. With Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Wolf’s Rain) on the music, her international folio delivers, including Indian Tabla – a rarity in anime – for tension. The dub is better than the original, as the American characters don’t speak Engrish and it matched voices better. Original is still good, overall.

Story – Medium

A terrorist attack on Tokyo leaves little clues outside an internet video with a riddle warning of another bomb. Sadly, a need for edge and desire to be Death Note fails to deliver on the premise.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. I debated extensively on whether to go for a high or medium rating, but the faults dampen the end feeling. I recommend Terror in Resonance on the merits of its visuals, audio, and the concepts it tackles, in spite of its story stumbles.

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

 

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

Positive:

Great MusicPositive Recommended English Voice Track

Negative:

DissapointingUseless Side CastWeak End

Berserk (2016) – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Berserk (2016)

 

Related: Berserk (1997 – original prequel)

Berserk: The Golden Age

Similar: Claymore

Vision of Escaflowne

Hellsing Ultimate

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Dark Action Fantasy Horror

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • The monsters and world.
  • Exploration of repressed lust.

Negatives:

  • Glosses over details.
  • Some truly atrocious CG.
  • Shounen humour with poor timing.
  • The crushing disappointment.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Berserk (2016) covers the Black Swordsman Arc of the franchise, following The Golden Age Arc movies, and when announced, many including myself were excited to see more Berserk. Perhaps the end was in sight at last. What no one predicted was the lack of care such a revered series would receive. An early preview showed but a glimpse of the CG atrocities that awaited us.

Before I get to the story, I must address the glaring art. This still looks like Berserk’s rich world filled with terrifying monsters, but this can’t make up for the awful CG that no amount shaders can mask. It reminds me of Valkyria Chronicles’ cutscenes, which is fine for a game, not anime. The first rule of CG in anime is never use it on organics close to the camera. The modelling at its core hinders all visual elements, while the floaty animation isn’t even fluid, for it chugs more than once. One could do better in modded Skyrim. The abrupt use of 2D on occasion, while better quality, looks out of place in this CG-fest. Furthermore, if insistent on CG, why not use Studio 4C like the Golden Age movies?

Beyond art, the story oozes lack of effort and care. I said this continues off the Golden Age Arc, but it doesn’t really. This seems to skip half of the Black Swordsman Arc in the manga. When we last left our characters, Guts had rescued Casca, yet here, his quest is to find her once again while he’s hunted by demons because of the brand on his neck – demon GPS, essentially. Where’s the bit with her disappearance? All we get is a brief scene that gives a whole lot of nothing. A few too many elements don’t receive exploration or explanation, forcing us to guess their significance.

All right, we’re in the story, we’ve accepted the skipped chapters, what else could go wrong? What bothered me most about Berserk 2016, more even than the CG, is the inclusion of shounen humour centred around a naked fairy called Puck (think Zelda’s Navi without the endearing qualities to make up for the annoying) and some sidekick kid, who reminds of Raki from Claymore, just nowhere near as bad (now that would be some feat). He talks too much. They don’t do much beyond deliver gags from generic battle anime. I know they come from the source material, but the timing is poor regardless. Whom did they think they were appealing to with this juvenile humour? Berserk is far too violent and explicit for the target audience of such humour. It feels more Eragon than Game of Thrones – never a good thing.

Berserk 2016 has positive qualities. The main conflict is against a band of Holy Knights charged with protecting a Holy Inquisitor (read: torturer) and capturing Guts, for he leaves a bloody trail in his wake, including once innocent people possessed by demons. When dead, the possessed and innocent look alike. Most interesting is the Holy Knight Commander Farnese, who reached her position through birth, nepotism, and devotion rather than skill. Her zealous life is ripe for exploration in regards to sex. The story is unrestrained about her lust in the face of religious celibacy and devotion, going into the depravity and secret desires of the human denied intimacy for life. The way she lashes out to being attracted to someone is excellent and shows great depth of character. I wish we got more of her.

One can see greatness in the story when it slows down to develop a moment, but before it truly settles, we’re off again, galloping into the next action scene. The editing is also choppy at times. Almost every episode has a moment where it cuts to a different location, shows us the start of a scene for ten seconds, and then cuts elsewhere. Why show us this other scene if you aren’t going to give it time? It’s jarring.

The story here is good, more so during latter episodes, in the same deep world, characters, and themes, but the missing details would elevate it to the highest tier. The final shot announces a new season in the works. Let us hope they improve significantly before then.

Art – Very Low

Atrocious CG can be enough to ruin the experience for some. As a side note, the TV broadcast has heavy censorship (there’s lots of nudity and brutality in Berserk), so some aspects look weird, such as a woman with no nipples and shots have a black shadow across half the screen.

Sound – Low

Though Berserk uses the same composer as previous iterations, track misplacement is an issue. The OST is weak compared to the greatness that is Forces – Guts’s theme has the same artist, but is the least prominent song of the series. Some odd sound effects: Guts’s sword resonates with a loud clang when cutting demon flesh, as if striking metal to metal. Now, I haven’t killed any demons in real life, but I’m certain metal against demon flesh doesn’t clang.

Story – Medium

Branded with a demon mark that keeps demons on his trail, Guts searches for Casca amidst the madness of a holy zealot army. More action than story, Berserk still has aspects of greatness, particularly in its exploration of repressed lust through the commander of the holy knights.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Try it. If you haven’t read the manga, story omissions won’t bother you as much, thus leaving your enjoyment up to the CG. If you can get used to the CG, Berserk: Black Swordsman Arc has enough to engage until the end. But truly, the CG is a challenge.

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

Positive:

Holy S***

Negative:

DissapointingUgly Artistic Design

Psycho-Pass – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Psycho-Pass

 

Related: Psycho-Pass 2

Similar: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

From the New World

Ergo Proxy

Death Note

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Science Fiction Action

Length: 22 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Engaging exploration of cause and effect in human crime.
  • Interesting cases driven by complex villains.
  • The future and tech aesthetic.

Negatives:

  • Protagonist is the weakest of the cast.
  • Some audio lets the team down.

In the 22nd century, Japan enforces and prevents crime by way of the Sibyl System, an objective network that determines a citizen’s Crime Coefficient (CO) by analysing their mind, their Psycho-Pass, for criminal intent. Some say the system is too objective. Inspectors carry out the judgements of Sybil against those whose coefficients rise to dangerous levels. However, the Enforcers (former Inspectors with high CO given life in exchange for service – a Suicide Squad) do all the dirty work, keeping Inspectors clean. Judgement usually means death, for no criminal mind may infringe upon this perfect society.

Psycho-Pass predicts the criminal rather than just the crime like in Minority Report. In Minority Report, a chain of events lead an individual to want to commit a crime, and the system predicts this for prevention. Psycho-Pass takes a step further, or rather ten steps backwards, to before a crime even occurs to the person, to the seed of “wrong-think” in the individual.

Perhaps an office worker is passed over for promotion in favour of another and he feels resentment for this injustice. Now, he doesn’t wish harm upon the other worker or the manager, but that resentment is enough to elevate his CO into criminal levels. One can be scanned at random anytime. The worst part – and most interesting – factor in this system is that if you are the victim of a crime, unable to cope with the trauma and wish for justice or revenge (as is understandable) against the criminal, solely in your mind, Sybil brands you a criminal as well. It’s an infinite loop of self-fulfilling prophecies in the world of Psycho-Pass. And I love it! Acknowledging this flaw in the first episode told me I was in for something great.

We navigate this 1984-style society through the eyes of Inspector Akane, a young woman with a heart for truth and justice. Alongside her is Enforcer Kogami, a realist who will shatter her idealistic view of the system. On the front lines with her team, she sees first-hand how just and fair the system is, bringing all she thought into question. Their dynamic is an interesting one and plays well. However, this is largely due to Kogami and the world itself; Akane is a bit too much of a blank slate. She’s not harem protagonist bland, but we never get a sense that she is someone beyond her job. Even a workaholic should have influences outside the job.

The plot structure is a crime serial with several smaller cases and an overarching major villain entering the picture several times, similar to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. I don’t know if there is something in the air or water at sci-fi crime studios, but they always seem to have excellent villains. Psycho-Pass is no exception. These villains complement the central theme of humanity and free thought perfectly, sometimes through twisted means. No case was boring. That said, they aren’t quite as clever as GITS: SAC.

Lastly, the tech and world design are awesome. From the neon lights of this pristine city to way the guns transform between non-lethal and lethal modes to, my favourite, the augmented reality HUD in one’s eyes, Psycho-Pass boasts a well-thought-out science fiction world. I would live in this city in the future – barring the Sybil system, of course.

At this point, I can’t say anymore to convince you to watch Psycho-Pass. It’s by no means a perfect anime, but what it does right is handily worth your time.

Art – High

Good art and animation blend CG nicely with lighting and filters such as rain. Love the world design. Despite the dark settings, the city’s neon lights create a nice colour contrast.

Sound – High

Good in both languages, but I – quite predictably – prefer the Japanese thanks to Tomokazu Seki (Kogami) in his iconic stoic character designation. While the electronic music fits the show, the OPs sound drugged – unless that’s for theme, but Sci-Fi drugs aren’t relevant here. Also, a high-frequency screech almost made my ears bleed at times.

Story – High

In the future, a central system scans citizens’ thoughts to pre-empt criminal behaviour, leading to a perfectly rigid society. Minority Report fuses with 1984 to create an engaging crime serial in Psycho-Pass.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Must watch, unless you don’t enjoy crime shows. Psycho-Pass’s concept alone warrants your attention, at least for one season.

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

 

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

Positive:

Deep NarrativePhenomenal Villain

Negative: None

Black Lagoon – Anime Review

Japanese Title: BLACK LAGOON

 

Related: Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage (sequel – included in review)

Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail (further sequel OVA – included in review)

Similar: Cowboy Bebop

Jormungand

Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom

Baccano!

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action

Length: 12 episodes (season 1), 12 episodes (season 2), 5 episodes (OVA)

 

Positives:

  • Off the funking chain action.
  • Unrestrained characters.
  • Excellent dub work.

Negatives:

  • Several action scenes go beyond suspension of disbelief.
  • Doesn’t blend comedy and dramatic moments as well as it could.

Cigarette burning between her lips, a string of vulgarities spewing forth, Revy fires her twin Cutlasses into a poor unfortunate soul. He doesn’t stand a chance. And there you have it, Black Lagoon in a nutshell.

Black Lagoon begins with the kidnapping of Japanese businessman Rokuro by the Lagoon Company of mercenaries for the secret disk he carries. However, the company he works for abandons him to die. This ordeal opens his eyes to the dreary corporate life he lives, and he decides to stay with the Lagoon Company, forsaking his past and name. As the liberated ‘Rock,’ he accompanies Revy, Dutch (pilot of the Black Lagoon ship), and Benny (tech) as they take on various missions – cargo transport, salvage recovery, guarding, destruction, etc.

Though the narrative sets up Rock as the protagonist with nothing to lose and trying to find a place in life, Revy is the true star. Without her, Black Lagoon wouldn’t be half as fun to watch. I love her foul-mouthed attitude; you talk smack, you get capped with a vulgar cherry on top. She is at her best when paired with her weapon-dealing nun of a friend who chews gum all day.

The action is fun, fast paced, and explosive, though it does push the boundaries of belief at times, even for fiction. Several scenes have characters walk through a hail of gunfire or they stand static and never take a hit. One scene in particular stands out in memory: a thousand bullets miss a stationary woman from a few metres away, and then, without aiming and using a long barrelled gun like a pistol, she fires three shots and gets three kills. It’s a bit ridiculous and distinctively uncool; it cheapens a character to have to cheat in such a manner for them. Excluding these few scenes, the action is good.

Setting aside the action, Black Lagoon does occasionally take a breather to let us meet these characters. We delve into their pasts and their philosophies. And while many of these scenes are interesting – most conflict within the team stems from Revy – they are dissonant to the comedy and over-the-top nature found in the remainder of the series. The heavy moments and comedy didn’t blend with the skill found in the likes of Full Metal Panic. The problem, I think, stems from the transitions; it suddenly jumps from one end to the other between scenes, almost feeling as though I had changed anime. However, watching in English reduces the gap, as their personalities are stronger in the dub and carry over between the comedy and drama, reducing separation. Furthermore, the superior second season doesn’t suffer as much as the first from this issue.

The second season is a notch above the first mainly because of the villains. Season one’s villains are rather typical – gangster, weapon dealer, etc. – but the second season brings out some truly twisted types – the twin children’s story is particularly disgusting; they left me disturbed, and thus, engaged.

Black Lagoon is the rock ’n’ roll of anime: partying, guns, foul mouths, smashing things for no reason, flipping cars, sex and alcohol. It is high action and a good deal of fun.

Art – High

Good art with nice animation to match the hectic visual pace.

Sound – Very high

The Japanese is fine, but the English takes it to a whole new level with accents, language to make a sailor blush, and much stronger personalities. There is no contest between the two languages. The rock music is jammin’, but it’s probably best not to realise the OP is supposed to be English.

Story – High

An ordinary Japanese businessman joins a mercenary group to find a purpose in life. High action and vulgarities throughout. The story could have married the heavy and light better.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: An easy recommendation for action fans. However, if you aren’t going to watch in English, it probably isn’t worth your time; the original doesn’t have half the personality or quality writing of the dub.

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

 

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

Positive:

Positive Recommended English Voice TrackStellar Voice Acting

Negative: None

Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Lupin III: Cagliostro no Shiro

 

Related: Lupin III (parent series)

Similar: Cowboy Bebop

Laputa: Castle in the Sky

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Comedy Adventure

Length: 1 hr. 40 min.

 

Positives:

  • Energetic.
  • More to it than first imagined.
  • Consistent laughs.

Negatives:

  • Uneven audio.
  • Princess doesn’t do much.

Just when Lupin and Jigen thought they had pulled off the ultimate heist, it turns out their loot is fake, counterfeit bills almost indistinguishable from the real product. They head to the Castle of Cagliostro to find the counterfeiter responsible for these “Goat Bills.” And to see if the castle holds any other treasure they could…borrow without permission. The proprietor, Count Cagliostro, has something strange in his manner, as well.

The Castle of Cagliostro is a heist adventure of car chases, disguises, beautiful dames, and ancient mysteries. I felt a strong Tintin vibe from this film, tirelessly incompetent detective included, only from a scoundrel’s perspective instead of a journalist’s view – it has similar slapstick humour, goofs that trip into an even more comedic accident, each action making things worse, never losing that sense of fun.

Going in, I expected a rather straightforward plot – reach castle, few traps to avoid, confront antagonist, get loot, and escape. However, I was surprised to find The Castle of Cagliostro held more than the typical heist film. The Count’s designs and the castle itself are unusual and interesting in their own right, adding that Tintin quality of including history elements and lore to the setting. We also have a few references to the Lupin III main series. The detective on Lupin’s tail is an absolute riot and a participant in many of the best comedic moments.

Not much else to say, really. As long as don’t expect a film of deep insight, you will have a good time. The Castle of Cagliostro is the perfect anime film when you want to relax with something fun, comedic that doesn’t lack quality.

Art – High

Cagliostro’s energetic animation is fitting to the action. The art is colourful, but could do with some extra detail.

Sound – High

The dub is of a better technical quality than the Japanese is; however, the better quality voices sound a bit off alongside the lower quality sound effects. The music, like animation, is energetic, up-tempo jazz, xylophone fitted to the action.

Story – High

A master thief and his partner track down the source of counterfeit bills to a mysterious castle with an intriguing owner. Lupin delivers a fun heist adventure with a few surprises in the mix.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: A fun adventure easy to recommend. Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro is simply enjoyable. Nothing wrong with that.

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

Positive:

Fluid AnimationHilarious

Negative: None