Tag Archives: Creepy

Expect to feel uneasy. Creepy doesn’t necessarily equate to a bad show. The villain may be sleazy, or a relationship could be inappropriate.

Rainbow – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin

 

Similar: Tomorrow’s Joe

Gungrave

Grave of the Fireflies

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Historical Drama Thriller

Length: 26 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Brutal depiction of post-war Japan.
  • Chemistry between the boys.
  • Sakuragi vs. prison guard dynamic.
  • Top-notch acting.
  • Unexpected outcomes.

Negatives:

  • Second half doesn’t tie together as well as it should.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Post-war Japan was a harsh place. For the poor, the abused, life was rough as the country tried to rebuild. In 1955, six teens find themselves on the wrong side of the law and sent to a correctional school, where they meet Sakuragi, their new cellmate. The events that follow will push them to the limits, punish them for daring to live, and test their resolve for survival until their sentences in hell are over.

Rainbow is brutal, not for the faint of heart. The production team warns you as much each episode with a disclaimer that the brutality, the depravity you will see is accurate of the time and it would be a disrespect to hide it. The first experience in prison is to have the doctor violate one of the boys in front of his friends. The doctor has a faux-gentle voice that makes one’s skin crawl. We witness a child rape not long after. It won’t be the last.

Rainbow never relents with either the characters or the audience. If you are to start this journey, know that peace never truly arrives.

Day one in the cell, Sakuragi beats the ego out of the other six to teach humility. Survival of the fittest is the only natural law that matters in this “school” and reckless bravado will get you killed. He becomes a role model to the others, uniting the group in friendship that even hell will have a tough time breaking. This chemistry between the boys not only makes Rainbow engaging but also loaded with emotion. When all of them put themselves on the line to allow Joe to see his little sister and save her from the rapist that adopted them, you feel a genuine bond tying these guys together.

Each brings something to the group with a distinct personality. The short but business savvy ‘Turtle’ has an endearing cockiness about him. ‘Cabbage’ is a friendly giant, ‘Soldier’ is disciplined, ‘Uncovered’ may be a bit of a prick but he’s got a plan to cover your back, and Mario is loyal to his own detriment. Every character in Rainbow is memorable thanks to a complete backstory and complex characteristics. It’s evident within an episode or two that the creator didn’t take any shortcuts when planning his characters.

As I watch these characters grow, I want nothing but the best for them. I want to protect these guys. I want them to be happy. Why can’t they catch a break? Why can’t they just be happy? It’s rare for a story to have me care so much for so many of its characters.

Their camaraderie evokes emotional moments. The most emotional scene for me doesn’t involve any violence or tragedy; it’s just everyone being there for one in the group when he needs them most.

The best arc in Rainbow belongs to Sakuragi, however, because of the conflict between him and the prison guard, a man who will stop at nothing to ruin his life. The guard tries to sow dissent among the friends, tortures the guys, and is complicit in the doctor’s vile acts as long as he can continue to torment Sakuragi. Their arc is fantastic and unexpected in direction. Rainbow as a whole makes several unexpected turns – not twists exactly. Rather, you don’t expect the outcomes of certain threads and events. The writer took bold decisions with the plot.

If I haven’t made it clear already, Rainbow is an anime worthy among the best. Yet, nothing is without fault and the major one with this anime is that the second half isn’t as strong as the first, owing to a lack of cohesion between arcs. The second half is closer to a series of short stories for each of the guys. While these stories are great, the writer didn’t weave them together. It would have been better to run several stories in unison, leaping frogging each other through interwoven events. For example, Joe’s story is about wishing to sing while Mario’s is about his boxing. There is no reason these couldn’t have had connected events and a little shared conflict. Weaving arcs together deepens the connection and raises stakes further when more characters have something on the line. Even so, Rainbow is still excellent throughout.

I don’t know how this anime stayed off my radar until requested for review. I had the horrid thought the other day that I may never have seen Rainbow if not for one dear reader… Even though I’m certain I have every great (or said to be great) anime on my list already, I am going to go through the databases again, just to be sure another Rainbow doesn’t slip past me. Such great anime deserves to be watched by all.

Art – High

The animation is only above average, but the visual style has atmosphere and the painterly stills during key moments are gorgeous, full of emotion.

Sound – Very High

You need great performances to pull off an anime of Rainbow’s weight, and they did it. I love the OP and ED, which stay the same throughout, unable to skip them each time they started. The only audio flaw is with some of the American characters likely played by expats in Japan with mixed acting expertise.

Story – Very High

Seven cellmates in a juvenile reform school cling to hope and friendship during a harsh post-war Japan. Rainbow’s uncompromising conflict will have you engaged and cheering for these boys to the end.

Overall Quality – Very High

Recommendation: A must watch unless you don’t like the brutal subject matter. Rainbow is a top tier anime that deserves a larger audience.

(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: 

Deep NarrativeExtensive Character DevelopmentGreat OP or ED SequencePhenomenal VillainStellar Voice ActingStrong Lead CharactersStrong Support Characters

Negative: None

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Scum’s Wish – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kuzu no Honkai

 

Similar: Rumbling Hearts

White Album

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Romance Drama

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Beautiful art and shot composition.

Negatives:

  • Immature view of sex, masquerading as maturity.
  • So much ‘almost sex.’
  • Boring lead.
  • Everything is a few beats slow.

(Request an anime for review here.)

You want a messed up love polygon? Hanabi is in love with her brother and teacher, but he’s interested in another teacher. Meanwhile, Hanabi’s classmate is in love with that other female teacher. To cope with the heartache of unrequited, forbidden love, Hanabi and the guy date each other for sexual and emotional comfort. They are each other’s replacements. However, another girl is in love with Hanabi, while the pretend boyfriend’s loli sister is also in love with him. Got all that? Lesbian -> Hanabi -> brother/teacher -> co-worker/teacher <- pretend boyfriend <- little sister.

Despite the messed up premise, my first thought was to question if Scum’s Wish would go far enough. The crueller the setup, the more likely an anime drama will chicken out before the end and not deliver the promise. When Scum’s Wish revealed that the brother wasn’t Hanabi’s real brother, I knew how this would end.

Scum’s Wish engaged me with its beautiful cinematography and emotional weight. Hanabi latched onto her brother and father figure, thinking they’d be together forever after the lack of a real father left her with emotional issues. It’s tragic.

Then the classmate’s little sister enters the picture, breaking the tone. She feels like a character from a trashy harem, not a tragic romance. Throw in the lesbian best friend with the hots for Hanabi, and the love polygon goes from tragic to comical. The teachers and students were enough. These extras comes across as characters meant to distract you from the shallowness of the main threads.

The ‘doesn’t go far enough’ problem is no more prevalent than in sex scenes. There’s a lot of almost sex. The artists put their all into animating each sex scene with smoothness and detail to maximise sensuality and eroticism. (Just imagine One Punch Man’s action scene animations, but for characters feeling each other up.) Yet, someone always backs out at the last moment.

Scum’s Wish was pitched to me as “the anime most mature about sex in years.” Now I don’t know what to think of the people who told me this – they were adults, too. Look, just because you censor less than a shoujo romance, it doesn’t make the sex any more mature. Almost every sex scene is “Gyaaah! Not there! Don’t look at me. Nyaaah!” They sure use the ‘one character on top of another, when the top starts crying and tears fall on the other’s face’ scene five times too many. It’s no different from any other immature relationship anime.

The villain of this story is the female teacher, surprisingly enough. She is aware of Hanabi’s desire, as well as all those who are after her, and she loves it. The teacher thrives on how much people want her – if she’s taking away someone’s crush in the process, then all the better. A unique villain, to be sure. Sadly, even she doesn’t go far enough. Her arc – hell, everyone’s arcs – resolves with the tension of wet toilet paper. Scum’s Wish simultaneously puts its characters in cruel scenarios while treating them like fragile ornaments that can’t suffer the slightest nudge, lest they break.

The fragility also weakens any emotional impact. March Comes in Like a Lion conveys emotion much more effectively, all while using a quarter of the words – silence instead of the excessive internal monologue found in Scum’s Wish.

The story has nothing beyond the relationship drama – no one feels like a real person with a life, even if a miserable one. Hanabi is worst of all. She is a passive, feeble character that rarely takes action. The plot doesn’t move forward at her behest. Someone else takes charge while she lies there going, “Gyaah! No…”

Maturity? Look elsewhere.

Art – High

The art is gorgeous, soft and elegant – I love the eyes. The shot composition is great at conveying multiple perspectives and emotions at once. Editing could be quicker. Character heights are oddly inconsistent – in the first scene, Hanabi bumps into a guy, coming up to his chin, but then two shots later, she is half a head taller than before!

Sound – Medium

Decent acting and calm music.

Story – Low

A love polygon of ridiculous dimensions messes with the emotions of every student and teacher involved. Scum’s Wish tries to be mature about sex, but devolves into immature melodrama that stretches reason beyond intrigue.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. Scum’s Wish won’t be for you unless you love sexual melodrama.

(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: None

Negative:

Shallow

Hand Shakers – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Hand Shakers

 

Similar: Kiddy Grade

Get Backers

Big Order

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Action

Length: 12 episodes, 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • None that I can imagine.

Negatives:

  • The CG. That awful, awful
  • Camera won’t keep still.
  • Meaningless action.
  • Predictable in every way.
  • The music loops.
  • The whole handholding gimmick.
  • Amounts to nothing.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Jesus. Christ. Welcome to CG hell.

Hand Shakers doesn’t even try to ease you into its septic tank; it shoves you in with the opening scene, where a kid ties a girl in bondage with the worst CG chains as he demands more power of her (by stomping on her crotch), unleashing more hideous chains across the duel arena. Maybe if they spent less time on the boob physics and more on the animation, it wouldn’t haunt the audience for life. One scene, that’s all it takes to know you are in for some grade-A slop.

In the world of Hand Shakers, designated couples can summon powers known as Nimrods by holding hands to duel other such ‘Hand Shakers’ in the alternate plane, Ziggurat. The couple that defeats all others will earn a meeting with God to have a single wish granted.

Where these powers come from exactly, how they work, why God would have this absurd tournament, or how these people got chosen, aren’t questions for which you should be seeking answers. Hand Shakers will give you nothing. Its true desire is to shove that CG down your throat until you’re gagging out of every orifice.

People think Berserk 2016’s CG is bad – it is – but it has nothing on Hand Shakers. Why do these CG-heavy shows treat the camera like a dog toy, throwing it about everywhere as though angles, shot composition, and timing don’t matter? Hand Shakers’ camera cannot seem to keep still. Just because you don’t have to redraw characters when changing angles, does not mean you have to swing the camera around like a drunk. One early scene has Protagonist Kid talking to some girl in class and out of nowhere, the camera circles around the pair (now in full CG) in a sweeping motion as if to suggest something grand is happening. You want to know what they’re talking about? How much he concentrates when tinkering with electronics. Woah, easy there! There’s no need to leap out of your seat with excitement. I know this camera just blew your mind, but keep it in your pants, please.

When filming the action of meaningless nonsense, the camera is jittery, flying all over the place with no rhyme or reason. The artist’s graphics card also needs an upgrade to hit more than 15FPS. Hand Shakers looks even better with the random use of fish eye lens and this screen filter that darkens the bottom of every shot. Is the ground supposed to be darker? Who cares!

The greatest, the crowning glory of this eyesore graces our eyes in episode six. Now, those chains looked bad, Protagonist Kid’s cogs (yes, his power is controlling cogs) are eye cancer made manifest, and characters changing to CG on the fly is as jarring as pickles in a sealed glass container, yet none of these come close to episode six. In this episode, Protagonist Kid and his dead-loli partner fight against the Children’s Card Game Kid and his big sister (she wants to bang that shota dingle-dangle – what a shocker). Card Kid’s power is summoning monsters from his TCG. When he summoned that Flame Emperor Dragon, I pissed myself with laughter. My expectations were already at the bottom of the cliff – I couldn’t go any lower, and then Hand Shakers proved me wrong. My expectations were now falling towards Earth’s core.

All the ugliness could be tolerable if the story and characters were good. No. None of this anime is good. The entire gimmick is that the main couple must hold hands for everything – the girl will die for some reason if he lets go. Could you be any lamer? I swear this is the author’s fetish, expressed by self-inserting into this nonsense. It’s the only explanation for this handholding obsession. Oh, you know those powers called Nimrods? Nimrod is an archaic insult, meaning idiot. Fitting.

Hand Shakers is also predictable. See two people together – one male, one female – in an episode? They will be the next opponents. (Do try to act surprised when they reveal themselves.)

None of the dialogue says anything throughout this story and the characters are equally empty, no more so than the loli girl Protagonist Kid enjoys going to the bathroom with (“The rules say we must hold hands at all times, so you must let me watch you tinkle!”). She has no personality. Like with all characters in this rubbish trope, this is by design because it makes her “mysterious” and “deep.” When she does show emotion later on, it makes no difference.

Remember the ‘never let go’ rule? Well, it doesn’t matter, for he does let go several times to no consequence. In one instance, he’s so distracted by a conveyer system at a restaurant that he doesn’t realise she’s gone, somehow vanished in an open area with few people around. The writer was too lazy to include a crowd to add some believability to this shallow conflict.

So, like every aspect of Hand Shakers, it all amounts to nothing in the end.

Art – Very Low

Ugly CG permeates every scene. The camera swings about wildly because it can. Fish eye lens. Shading filters. More boob physics than any other animation. Jittery camera. Some imagery is nice, but the list of artistic problems never ends in Hand Shakers.

Sound – Very Low

Was this truly successful enough to warrant localisation? No actor could make this script sound good. I swear to you that each track loops the same twenty seconds of music.

Story – Very Low

People who gain power by holding hands as a couple fight each other to gain a wish from God. Hand Shakers is a predictable mess that results in nothing.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Avoid it. Hand Shakers is only for those with a morbid curiosity of the worst CG anime can offer. Not even ‘so bad it’s good.’

(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: None

Negative:

Awful DialogueHollow World BuildingHorrendous ActionIncoherentMary SueNo DevelopmentRepetitiveRubbish Major CharactersShallowUgly Artistic DesignUseless Side Cast

Aoi Bungaku – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Aoi Bungaku

 

Similar: Monster

Ayakashi: Japanese Classic Horror

Box of Goblins

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Psychological Historical Drama Thriller

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Something different.
  • Stories three and six.
  • Complex characters.
  • Dark and twisted imagery in some stories.

Negatives:

  • Stories two and four.
  • First story needs more episodes.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Aoi Bungaku is an adaptation of six Japanese literary classics, each sharing a facet of the authors’ lives and psychology. This makes the second short story collection I’ve reviewed recently, but where Diamond Daydreams is an easy viewing experience, Aoi Bungaku is intense, dark, and often twisted.

No Longer Human, the first story, follows the descent into darkness of a high school student after losing his way into drugs and abuse. This noir-esque tale shows his life at different stages in four episodes, each stage worse than the last. He sees a ghost of his former self in reflection, void of identity, a hollow shell with no purpose.

The most depressing story in the collection, scholars consider No Longer Human to be autobiographical, explaining why the author killed himself after its completion. This story most needed the extra space – likely a series of its own – out of all works presented, even though it receives the most episodes.

Too heavy for you? Well, In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom, changes gear with its comedic tone as it tells of a bandit and his love for a beautiful yet spoilt woman. She agrees to marry him if he fulfils her request, and in his blindness, he agrees to all she asks. Her requests keep getting more and more outlandish. She starts with a simple ride up the mountain, then it’s to kill his other wives without question, and she only demands worse from there on.

On paper, this story sounds brutal. However, the comedy gives the opposite result. There’s a talking boar, for example, trying to reason his way out of becoming dinner for the wives, one of whom speaks English, for some reason. Sudden chibi comedy bursts on the scene as well. Honestly, I’m not sure what the intent was with this one. It doesn’t work as a comedy nor as a dark tale – though one of the woman’s final requests is truly messed up. A weak story, in the end.

Kokoro, story three, takes us in yet another direction to deliver the best of the series. It explores the friendship between a scholar and a wanderer. The scholar begins to regret inviting his friend to use the spare room when he takes an interest in the landlady’s daughter, for whom the scholar has designs. In a single episode, we see a full character arc pass from friendship and trust to jealousy and egoism. We see more development here than some anime have in a season. And that’s not even Kokoro’s greatest strength.

The next episode goes back to the start of the tale, but this time shows everything from the wanderer’s perspective. It’s brilliant to see how versions of events differ and exemplifies the ‘Unreliable Narrator’ device. Kokoro handily wins best story in this anime.

Run, Melos! comes next, killing the momentum by being the weakest of the lot. It’s a contemporary take on a Greek classic, focusing on unwavering friendship no matter what life may throw. The story hasn’t much to it, no real turns or points of interest – the shortness doesn’t help.

The Spider’s Thread – story five – puts an assassin to the test in redemption at the end of his life. He lived a life without concern for anyone or anything but himself – he even kills a woman that fed him in kindness – and goes to Hell for his actions. However, he receives one final chance at redemption when a spider’s thread descends from Heaven.

The most psychedelic of the stories, The Spider’s Thread almost reaches greatness. I like its idea – reminds of Death Parade. Yet with most of the conflict occurring in his mind it lacks the weight, the impact, it could have had if he had faced other people as well.

Lastly, we end on Hell Screen. A lord commissions a famous artist to paint an epic depiction of ‘Buddhist Hell’ in all its facets. The artist’s superior skill stems from his ability to capture the emotion of reality like no other. The catch is that he must witness these emotions for himself, and the commission being one of hell, his research turns to madness. Life begins to imitate art as the lord’s people go mad.

This story recalls the Warhammer novel Fulgrim, where Slaanesh, Chaos God of Pleasure and Excess, corrupts a legion of Space Marines in their quest for perfection in art and battle. The corruption goes so far, drives the legion so mad that one artist paints his magnum opus from his own blood, sweat, and faeces – literally. Highly recommended book. Without giving anything away, the painter’s final masterpiece in Hell Screen is similar to that – twisted yet riveting.

Aoi Bungaku slips under the radar of most anime fans. I had never heard anyone mention it before unless I specifically searched for material on it. Those looking for a hidden gem may find it in Aoi Bungaku.

Art – High

Despite being low on animation, Aoi Bungaku has some great imagery and compositions in several stories. The art style changes for each story to match the tone – dark and grainy for the heaviness in No Longer Human, vibrant for In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom’s comedic angle, and so on. I liked Kokoro’s camerawork and framing most.

Sound – High

The protagonist in each story shares the same actor, who also plays host, and the acting is good overall. Music effectiveness seems to match story quality.

Story – High/Medium

A series of Japanese classics with a focus on character study get anime adaptations, succeeding to varying degrees. Stories three and six rise above, while two and four lack presence. The split rating is for the varying quality between stories.

Overall Quality – High/Medium

Recommendation: Watch Kokoro (episodes 7 & 8) and Hell Screen (episode 12) – give or take the rest. Even if interested in seeing all stories, Aoi Bungaku is only twelve episodes long and presents something new every few, so it won’t take much time to experience this distinct anime.

(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:

Deep NarrativeStrong Lead Characters

Negative: None

Koi Kaze – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Koi Kaze

 

Similar: Wandering Son

OreImo

Rumbling Hearts

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Drama Romance

Length: 13 episodes

 

Positives:

  • The ending.
  • Common sense not forgotten.
  • Cliché-free.

Negatives:

  • Thin on content.
  • Lacks relationship scaffolding.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Genetic sexual attraction (GSA) is the real scientific theory of sexual attraction between two relatives who meet after separation since birth or infancy. GSA forms the basis of Koi Kaze. 27-year-old Koshiro works as a marriage matchmaker, despite incompetence in his own relationships, and an encounter with a teenage girl rekindles hope of love within him. However, Nanoka reveals herself as his sister, not seen since their parents divorced long ago, each taking custody of one child. She will be staying with him and their father for school from now on. Sexual tension bubbles under one roof.

Where incest most often plays a comedic role in anime (Ouran High School Host Club), or as drama so laughable it may as well be comedy (Vampire Knight, Please Twins), Koi Kaze is one of the few that takes a serious angle and knows what that requires. Most notably, people actually bloody question the morality of the relationship. Thank the anime gods – some sense! When the mother insinuates she would kill Koshiro if he does anything to her daughter, I sat up, impressed the writer included an authentic reaction to the thought of one’s children getting amorous. This is especially important with the 12-year age gap between the two.

The relationship spawns in a time of heartbreak for both. Their vulnerability and desperation for comfort coupled with GSA, and our general attraction to people who look similar to ourselves, sells us on the inception of the taboo path they tread. Many writers don’t realise how biologically difficult it is for an incestuous union to form, so the setup is crucial. Furthermore, they don’t dive right into each other’s pants. Koshiro hates his feelings and himself, lashing out at Nanoka, while she, the younger of the two, doesn’t know what to make of any of this. I’m glad this wasn’t a case of “This is wrong, but take me anyway!” The story has conflict and inner turmoil.

Where Koi Kaze falls flat is beyond the setup. Alright, an unfortunate concoction of circumstances and lust triggers this relationship, but what keeps it going? For a moment, think of this as a normal relationship – no taboo, no age gap, just two people yearning. What interests them beyond the initial burst of endorphins? Act 2, the middle development of their relationship is lacking and thin of content. He’s a dick and a loser while she’s emotionless. This doesn’t make them bad characters, of course, – we’ve all met such people – but if this were a normal relationship, would they remain or even become a couple? I don’t think so.

That said, if the story had gone longer, maybe we would have seen them realise they have no interest in each other beyond lust. It would be intriguing to see the slow destruction in their relationship, which the sober ending hints at. If the writer had included this stage – delete act 2, move the current solid act 3 up to 2, followed by new act 3 – Koi Kaze could have been great.

This anime is decent, regardless. I am surprised to see genuine thought and effort go into such a complex subject. It’s worth a look for being something different.

Art – Medium

Average art and animation – many static shots with mouth movements only. The white mouths look odd, or have I become too used to black mouths? Every shot seems a beat too long. Each line has a beat too much before the next.

Sound – Medium

Nanoka is rather flat in Japanese. Give some emotion! The dub is fine, though the script hasn’t much opportunity for range. The music is appropriately melancholic.

Story – Medium

Two siblings estranged by their parents’ divorce reunite and develop feelings for each other against better judgement. Despite lacking act two content, Koi Kaze’s serious take on a taboo relationship is solid.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. If the subject matter and melancholic romance interests you, then give Koi Kaze’s taboo story a chance.

(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: None

Negative: None