Tag Archives: Ecchi

Perverted aspects. Doesn’t apply to shows where it is a minor aspect.

Vandread – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Vandread

 

Related: Vandread: The Second Stage (included in review)

Similar: Martian Successor Nadesico

A Certain Magical Index

Gurren Lagann

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Ecchi Science Fiction Action Comedy

Length: 26 episodes (2 seasons)

 

Positives:

  • So ridiculous it’s entertaining.

Negatives:

  • Ugly as sin.
  • Don’t expect quality anywhere.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Vandread was the other anime from my ‘Watched but Not Reviewed’ list that I was tempted to revisit. Though unlike Scryed, which I surmised would still be good, Vandread was certain to be trash. But is it glorious trash?

In the future as presented by Vandread, men and women live on separate planets, able to reproduce through cloning to fuel the endless war between the two. Women are monsters who eat men, say the men! Men are savage barbarians, say the women! Generations of no in-person contact have led to the growth of demonising myths about the opposing sides. At the launch of the men’s new Vanguard battleship, low-class labourer Hibiki sneaks aboard to steal a mech, but finds himself captured by pirate women in a surprise attack. Oh no, they’re going to eat him! However, the battle created a wormhole, sucking the Vanguard and pirate ship into distant space, where the men and women must work together to survive.

These women aren’t part of female society anymore. The vanity war between women on their home planet made them strike out on their own to become something better. As for the men, Hibiki had no status on his world, the doctor wants to help others regardless of faction, and the Vanguard pilot finally has a purpose. An easy bond forms between the groups. The core theme of becoming something greater than your birth persists throughout every character arc.

Vandread is light-hearted – I mean, an episode is all about setting up the Christmas party – so set expectations to low.

The screen time alternates between space battles and comedy. The battles are terrible – don’t just mean the visuals – and aren’t worth paying attention to. The comedy largely plays on basic gender stereotypes in a fun manner. Main girl Dita is obsessed by aliens and calls Hibiki ‘Alien-san’ as she stalks him around the ship – she wants to confirm if rumours about men having a hose between their legs is true. Conveniently for her, his mech functions better with both of them inside yet has a single seat, forcing her to sit on his lap.

This isn’t a harem, surprisingly. I am amazed they resisted the temptation with a 5-to-1 ratio of men to women in the cast all aboard a single ship. That one choice makes Vandread much more enjoyable as a bad anime.

Vandread is as silly as it sounds. I used to like this show when I had seen a handful of anime. Now? The silliness is still fun in a bad way, but I find myself unable to care once the second season starts. A single season is enough. It looks like arse too, which tests the tolerance of your eyes.

Art – Very Low

All the CG for the ships and mechs looks awful. Character designs suck – the protagonist is a walking cliché of the era. He has many shounen anime clones.

Sound – Low

The script is rubbish and the voice work is average, yet is fun because no one takes the material seriously.

Story – Very Low

In a universe where men and women live on different planets, female space pirates capture three men and find themselves teaming up to combat forces from all sides. Vandread is stupid in every facet in the right way to make it fun.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: For fans of bad anime. If you don’t want to think and need to veg out, Vandread is the perfect remedy with its silliness.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Ugly Artistic Design

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Dusk Maiden of Amnesia – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Tasogare Otome x Amnesia

 

Similar: Another

Ghost Hunt

AnoHana

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Horror Mystery Romance

Length: 12 episodes, 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Some gorgeous colours.
  • The humour succeeds.

Negatives:

  • The protagonist is as dull as the grave.
  • One of the worst dubs ever made.
  • Empty world.
  • The romance.

(Request an anime for review here.)

After you read the following blurb, I want you to guess what Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is about:

Yuuko has haunted Seikyou Private Academy ever since her death in the basement 60 years ago. Her memories of life lost, she establishes the Paranormal Investigations Club, where she meets Niiya, a boy who somehow has the ability to see her, Momoe, a girl afraid of ghosts, and the distrustful Kirie. They investigate the various mysteries surrounding the school to figure out which one relates to Yuuko’s death.

You’re thinking this is a horror mystery, yes? Well, you’d be wrong. I was wrong. This is a romance with a dash of horror mystery on the side – a romance with as much substance as a ghost.

Any romance with such a wet noodle of a guy as Niiya is doomed to fail. He’s a nobody. I don’t know what personality he’s meant to have. The idea of a ghost with several possibilities pointing to her identity and death is an interesting one. It hooked me. The mechanics of Yuuko’s appearance are interesting, for one.

When Niiya looks at her, he sees a sexy girl, voluptuous and well endowed in the right places, always flirting with him and craving his touch. But in the eyes of Kirie, she’s a monster, an onryo with long, matted black hair and black blood leaking from her skin. Her seductions aren’t for love. They are to ensnare Niiya and do who knows what to his soul. This is a great idea. The romance is obvious from the start and I thought its inclusion was to heighten tension, create uncertainty about whether she wants his love or his life. Unfortunately, this tension doesn’t last.

Another problem is the hollowness of the world. These four characters seem to be the entire population of this school. You see the occasional background character, but they may as well be cardboard cutouts. Imagine if there were more characters, each with a different perception of Yuuko and no one knows her true version.

We have this romance with no ground to stand on instead. Forcibly tripping over to grab both her breasts is supposed to be a heartfelt moment of their relationship (kill me…). Not joking. He’s a harem protagonist without a harem.

Even if Niiya were a great character, the meshing of romance and mystery needs work. The story progresses through a series of cases, investigating phantoms in mirrors, bodies buried under the school, an old myth about a curse on the last kid to leave school each day, and the like. All these mysteries lack layers without time to develop because the romance takes precedence.

Hell, there’s almost more comedy than mystery in this horror mystery. Dusk Maiden of Amnesia opens on a great scene of Momoe in the clubroom writing notes as various objects float around. She freaks out but explains everything away to keep her sanity. Niiya enters and can seemingly read her mind. Then the whole scene plays again, only to reveal Yuuko this time, responsible for moving the objects, drinking Momoe’s tea, and the mind reading is a coincidence. Niiya’s answers to Yuuko’s questions happened to fit Momoe’s thoughts. Great use of a ghost, I must say.

So what we have here is a horror mystery with more comedy and even more romance than either horror or mystery. Did I put in the wrong disc?

Art – Medium

The environments are grim and grungy, reminiscent of a noir detective game, but the characters look too clean, too ‘nice’ for the setting. Some shots have such gorgeous colours that I paused to admire them.

Sound – Low

What is with this dub? How did they make such a bad dub in 2012? This sounds out of the 90s before professionals did the job. Not everyone is bad, of course. That protagonist though…bloody hell. Thankfully, the Japanese is fine, so stick to it. Even so, don’t expect anything above average. The best friend’s freakouts are the best.

Story – Low

The Paranormal Investigations Club unravels their school’s mysteries to recover the memories of the girl that haunts the halls. Dusk Maiden of Amnesia made the grave mistake of focusing on romance with a soggy protagonist instead of the mysteries it had set up.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. Even horror fans won’t find something of worth in Dusk Maiden of Amnesia because of the romantic focus.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Shallow

FLCL – Anime Review

Japanese Title: FLCL

 

Related: FLCL 2 (TBR)

Similar: Excel Saga

The Tatami Galaxy

Kill la Kill

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Action Comedy

Length: 6 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Good animation.

Negatives:

  • LOL random!
  • Haruko is annoying.
  • So bloody boring.
  • All noise, no substance.
  • The dub is the worst. THE WORST!

(Request an anime for review here.)

I put off FLCL’s review for the longest time, but with the sequel announced, I guess death is inevitable now, so best get it over with.

Naota’s dreary life turns upside down when the mother of all annoyances, Haruko Haruhara, crashes her scooter into him and bats him with her guitar. It’s not long before a horn grows from his forehead and a robot bursts forth. Haruko and the robot take up residence in his home, against his wishes, but that’s the least of his worries with the battle over his power yet to come.

It’s hard to get a sense for FLCL without watching it. The comedy is best described as ‘LOL random’, the action as flashy yet pointless, and the metaphors as trite. FLCL masks its meagreness by throwing everything and the kitchen bin at you. With one episode’s worth of substance stretched across six, it is no wonder they filled the time with random humour and weak imagery. The inconsistent tone with no throughput line to tie it all together delivers a disjointed anime. Haruko’s sole purpose seems to be to yell spontaneously some idiocy or other, just in case coherence is trying to take a foothold. She is a contender for worst character of all time.

You will hear viewers talk of how hard it is too follow FLCL. Don’t confuse this for complexity. They refer to the lack of cohesion, not depth of ideas. Anyone would be forgiven for getting a headache from all the noise. The Tatami Galaxy is far weirder, yet has leagues more cohesion and sense.

The genius depth fans claim to find in FLCL comes from the metaphors. I hate to break it to them, but these metaphors couldn’t be more obvious. A girl slamming into (love at first sight) and giving “mouth-to-mouth” to a guy, which makes a horn (boner) grow from his forehead doesn’t take genius to figure out. Oh wow, he’s attracted to her and has a hard-on for her against all sense later, just like every other teenager – colour me shocked. My mind has expanded…

The defence for all these shows is “You don’t get it.” I don’t know why people think that any story is hard to ‘get’. I think they confuse their fascination of an art piece – often a piece that showed them something new or a new way of thinking – as some hidden genius, and if others don’t find it deep, then it must be because they haven’t seen it yet, they haven’t been enlightened to the secret genius of the artwork. No, everybody saw it, everybody got it – they had simply seen better before. “You don’t get it” is the worst defence you can use. It makes you look like a simpleton unable to justify your stance on a critique. (I’m not referring to the “It’s not your type of art” meaning of “don’t get it” – just the “you are too stupid to understand it” version. We really need to start using two different phrases.)

Even setting all the above aside, a good metaphor doesn’t require understanding to succeed. The subtext simply adds to the effect, similar to an Easter egg or a subtle call back to a previous series. If you read Moby Dick and think it’s about hunting a whale, then you can still enjoy it as a great book. See the metaphor, and it gets even better. The best metaphors enhance your experience without your knowledge. You’ll find that the way a story came together, the narrative resonance from start to finish, is brilliant yet not realise it is because of the overarching metaphor. Then a friend happens to mention it years later and it all clicks together like that final Lego piece. You didn’t see the metaphor, but you subconsciously got it.

An easy technique to analyse the weird and zany is to strip it down to the basics, to the characters and story. Do they still have complexity? No? Then all the world’s weirdness won’t save them. Yes, weirdness adds to the style, presentation, enhan— it’s the difference between some monotone bloke versus Stephen Fry narrating an audiobook. It makes a difference, perhaps enough to be entertaining, but it doesn’t fix underlying problems. The best CG doesn’t save a bad film, does it?

FLCL certainly has good ideas. You can see the same ideas of teen sexuality in Neon Genesis Evangelion and the action style went in Gurren Lagann later on. If you want the weirdness executed with control and thought, look no further than Kill la Kill. Brought together like this is just a mess, however.

Even at a mere six episodes, FLCL was a chore to finish – took four sessions. I found it boring all those years ago and I still think the same today.

Art – High

Good animation and clever shot compositions are FLCL’s only redeeming features.

Sound – Low

The script is nonsense accompanied by weak acting, and yet the dub is infinitely worse. Avoid it!

Story – Very Low

A kid’s life turns upside down when a crazy girl with a guitar hits him in the head and a robot grows from his forehead soon after. FLCL’s reliance on random humour to fill time between plot moments marks it as a show lacking in confidence and substance.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. If you must watch FLCL, don’t subject yourself to the dub.

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

Positive:

Fluid Animation

Negative:

IncoherentNot FunnyRubbish Major CharactersShallow

Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata

 

Related: Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend .flat (sequel – included in review)

Similar: The World God Only Knows

Welcome to the NHK

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Harem Ecchi Comedy Romance

Length: 25 episodes (2 seasons)

 

Positives:

  • Episode 0s.
  • Proper challenges in creative professions.

Negatives:

  • Can’t focus.
  • Too much harem filler.
  • Becomes what it parodies too often.

(Request an anime for review here.)

It’s no secret that trash overwhelmingly populates the harem genre. It’s also common knowledge that harem is mainstream among anime fans, as a harem entry hits the charts each season. Fans also forget them just as quickly when the next season throws a new batch of waifus to pick from.

Harem anime is the easiest genre to make and thus floods the new release list every few months. To stand out from the orgy, studios select series that can bait the reader in, whether through an all-monster-girl cast, picking up girls in a dungeon, or making every girl be the guy’s teachers. A-1 Pictures’ gamble to go meta-harem with Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend paid off, wedging it between the breasts of fellow harems The Testament of Sister New Devil (what is this name?) and Absolute Duo in that season’s top 10. Parodying the genre elevates you above the genre, yes? Well, let’s find out.

Saekano follows high school otaku Tomoya in his dream to make the most compelling harem visual novel. To this task, he recruits illustrator Eriri, bestselling author Utaha, and boring girl Megumi as model for the main character. However, to tap into the emotions required for a compelling visual novel, he and his ‘super team’ must experience these emotions themselves.

So, the excuse for a harem this time is the creation of the visual novel, where 99% of harem anime come from, which is a better excuse than most. The characters comment on the harem – get down with the meta – in the process of crafting the game characters, writing the story, and designing the illustrations, often to comedic results. Episode 0 is full meta, as it assigns each character a role in the harem anime – think of a harem LARP. This Episode 0 deceptively sets up the idea that Saekano is a meta harem, which is not the case, as it’s more of a workplace anime like Shirobako and New Game before it then becomes an ordinary harem.

Giving the characters jobs that drive their progression is a nice addition. (Ever notice how most harem characters do nothing in life?) Even so, Tomoya isn’t much more interesting than your average harem protagonist. He’s about light novel protagonist level. The greatest missed opportunity lies in Megumi. It would have been much more interesting if she were nothing like the ‘boring girlfriend’ archetype required for the game. Instead, make her the opposite but have to act like the generic harem main girl. What we have is an unironic bland girl with no arc, whose main purpose is to create the clickbait title of the anime.

The third act of season one introduces Tomoya’s cousin, a musician, whom he recruits to compose music for the game. Up to this point, most episodes focused on each character’s role (Saekano still uses the harem structure of ‘let each girl have their turn’). When the cousin enters, it’s her turn to jump Tomoya and there’s nothing meta or ironic about the cousin-cest. The usual accidental flashing, towel drops, no boundaries, and shallow titillation fill the screen time. Saekano becomes the cliché it’s supposedly parodying. Season one is a bore.

Funnily enough, season two opens with new meta about the first season, mocking it as boring and clichéd. “How did such a generic anime get a second season?” And Saekano sees a marked improvement from there. Work takes centre stage with serious conflict. The team struggles with finding the answers to what will make for a compelling game in the face of deadlines. Eriri and Utaha also receive an offer to work on a professional project. This creates Saekano’s best moment, when Tomoya has to face the reality that he isn’t cut out to lead a team of professionals. Eriri and Utaha aren’t amateurs, yet he treats them as such, not demanding of them the same quality as you would of a professional. For the first time in a harem, the protagonist is punished for being too nice. Progress!

You may be asking yourself about what happened to the meta. Saekano’s core failure is a lack of focus. Is it a harem parody? No, it’s a romance. Wait, no, it’s about finding success in life. Saekano needed to choose one and relegate the others to subplots instead of giving each one main plot time in turn (ironically, just as harem does with its girls). A symptom of this failure is no more evident than when Tomoya fades as protagonist in season two. He becomes a supporting character in his own story! (Not a great loss, if I’m honest.)

Saekano is still above most harem, but only average by other standards, which is far better than anyone should expect.

Art – Low

Saekano uses the style of coloured lines instead of black for character outlines – as seen in Bakemonogatari – but at random, giving characters an off-putting neon glow. A-1 Pictures tried copying Shaft without purpose. Bad CG intrudes at odd times, such as when the author is typing. No artistry either. It really wants you to find these girls sexy with how it pans across anywhere but the face.

Sound – Medium

The acting is fine with nothing outstanding. Music is forgettable.

Story – Medium

A visual novel aficionado convinces a bestselling author, a respected illustrator, and a random girl to join his project of creating the best harem visual novel. A lack of focus holds this story back, though still succeeds in parts.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For harem fans only. Saekano’s meta humour and effort at conflict make a more interesting anime than the usual harem. Its faults still confine it to the genre.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Incoherent

Video Girl AI – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Den’ei Shoujo Video Girl Ai

 

Similar: Ah! My Goddess

DNA2

Chobits

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Ecchi Romance Drama

Length: 6 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Remote control of the video girl.

Negatives:

  • No foundations to the infatuation.
  • Dumb as bricks characters.
  • Little happens.

(Request an anime for review here.)

I feel like a broken record at this point – when you write a romance, you must give reason for the characters to love each other. Starting with lust is fine, common even, but if you want the audience to believe in the ‘true love’ your characters profess, there must be more. Video Girl Ai is yet another romance without foundations.

Homeward bound after a heart-breaking rejection, Youta stops by a video store to make a purchase in the hope of a distraction. He gets more than he bargained for when a video girl called Ai emerges from the TV. He can control her with the remote – slow-mo, rewind, frame-by-frame, and even adjust boob size. He flattens them. She’s supposed to be meek, but damage to the VCR gives her a feistier personality than intended. Even so, she promises to help him find love.

Youta’s object of obsession is Moemi, a girl at school who only has eyes for the popular Takeshi. Really though, the key player in this relationship is Youta. He will do anything for Moemi, even help with a gift for Takeshi. He has the classic “nice” guy mentality. “If I do everything she wants, eventually she’ll break up with her boyfriend and realise I’ve been beside her the whole time!” Thankfully, Ai makes fun of him for it and Takeshi calls out Moemi’s selfishness, which points to the writer almost getting it right. Had the story been one of a wimpy guy realising he’s acting the loser, clinging to a bimbo with no interest in him, it could have been interesting. As is often the case with wimp romances however, this isn’t meant to reflect reality. It wants to give false hope that having no spine will make you attractive.

The cringe reaches new heights when he confesses to her loudly in public, but she thinks he’s just practicing to tell someone else… Really? Forget him having no spine – why would he be interested in such a dimwit?

To no one’s surprise, the twist is that he should have realised he had a loving girl in Ai beside him this whole time. Gasp! And he sure jumps into her arms quickly after it fails with Moemi. What a nice, considerate guy. After this, the finale involves a test of true love decreed by the villain in a visually creative setting. But remember what I said about foundations? Well, when you have no foundations, the audience is unlikely to make an emotional connection with the couple in a life or death struggle. Youta is screaming about his love for Ai, yet his words are hollow. He never showed us he loved her when he had nothing to gain.

Did he once get to know her?

Did he ever do anything selfless for her?

Did he share an interest with her?

Anything?

He’s so obsessed with doing frivolous favours for Moemi that he ignores Ai until the end, where – if realistic – would have made her little more than a stranger, not the object of true love.

Never forget your foundations. There is more emotion to be found in a man asking a woman how she has been lately than in a grand stunt off the Eiffel Tower to impress her. Yes, the stuntman is more impressive, but emotional resonance is about more than being impressive.

Art – Low

Video Girl Ai looks the same as DNA2, down to a girl cloned across both series.

Sound – Medium

The acting is average either way, as is the music.

Story – Low

A heartbroken teen thinks that watching a video will get his mind off things, only to have a girl emerge from his TV. What should have been a fun anime devolves into a romantic drama with no foundations.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Don’t bother. Video Girl Ai needed a lot of work in the draft stage – more chemistry, conflict, and complexity. DNA2 is so much more fun.

(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:

Lacks Conflict