Ajin: Demi-Human is one of Netflix’s first anime commissions and most known for its use of CG characters. Before you flinch, the CG isn’t anywhere near the level of Berserk 2016. For one, keeping the environments in 2D was a wise decision. The characters still don’t look great, mind you. The problem with CG characters is that parts of the model are too smooth, such as the mouth, and the smooth animation later chopped to 24 frames-per-second doesn’t blend well. In 2D animation, the mouth will jump from one position to the next – perhaps with an ‘in-between’ position – but in CG, the mouth moves from start-frame to end-frame in a smooth motion, which doesn’t look right. It’s smooth, yet choppy at the same time. For a look at how to use CG for 2D animation, I cannot recommend this video enough on how they did the graphics for Guilty Gear Xrd (skip to 33:55 if you don’t want to watch the full hour).
The CG will likely prejudice most anime fans, not giving the rest of the series a chance. But let’s imagine you don’t mind the CG – what of the story?
Ajin: Demi-Human revolves around humans called ‘Ajin’ that can regenerate, paralyse with a scream, and summon Black Ghosts to vanquish enemies. Humanity fears their powers. To be an Ajin is to live in perpetual hiding, hated by all. Upstanding student Kei walks in front of a truck one day, only to get up from a pool of his blood to see black matter issuing from his skin. He is an Ajin. And so starts his life on the run, distrustful of everyone around him and with nowhere to go. However, an old friend comes to his aid.
The story starts strong, pitching us headfirst into the Ajin situation with intense action and tension as everyone and their mum wants Kei. Not dead, funnily enough, because the bounty for capture is immense and there is the whole matter of immortality.
On the opposing team, we have government worker Tosaki and his secretly Ajin partner working to control the superhuman threat. He tries too hard to sound tough. When witnessing Ajin immortality experimentation through torture at a research facility, he threatens his partner to do as he says or this would happen to her, even though she already does anything he wants. What’s the point of the threat? He also sabotages the research organisation for reason that don’t make much sense in an attempt, I assume, to paint him as tough and independent.
However, this is nothing compared to the true villain, Sato the old man Ajin. Every line out of this guy is bravado and metaphors about war and video games. Never have I seen a series want you to find a villain intimidating so badly, yet keep failing and trying with the next scene. He could have been interesting with his manipulation of Kei, turning him against humanity, and his acts for Ajin rights and compassion from the public. Sadly, the bravado overpowers it all. Season 2 is particularly bad for this.
As for Kei, he’s an average protagonist without much personality going for him. He also can’t seem to decide on his motivations and allegiances. For example, when Sato is breaking him out of the research facility, Kei switches to protecting the researchers from Sato, who wants to kill them all. These people just tore his teeth out, severed his fingers, and drilled his skull for ten days and he instantly wants to help them? The first thing one researcher says is a promise to get him back on the torture slab! Kei isn’t a smart kid despite his intensive studying (what a shocker).
Even with all of these problems, Ajin: Demi-Human is never boring thanks to its fast pace and conflict against the world. It’s much better than the CG gives it credit for.
Art – Low
Ajin’s mix of CG characters and 2D backgrounds looks much better than the likes of Berserk 2016, yet still has a long way to go.
Sound – Low
The villains’ dialogue needs an overhaul and different actors. Season 2 OP and ED are torture. The rest of the music is good however – intense.
Story – Low
Kei develops superpowers marked as one of the ‘Ajin’, which turns humanity against him. A strong start veers off course into a second season dominated by a rubbish villain that tries too hard.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: Try it. Most viewers won’t give Ajin: Demi-Human a try due to the CG, but the intense man vs. world story is entertaining enough.
I used to hate Neon Genesis Evangelion – hate with a burning passion, which I alluded to in my ‘Former Favourites’ list. The hatred was so strong that it was part of my core as an anime fan. When I brought up Evangelion to my friend the other day, the first thing he mentioned was my hatred of the series all those years ago.
Why the hatred? Well, it was my teenage mindset. I used to have a problem whereby one significant fault in a series I otherwise enjoyed could ruin the whole thing. My reaction was disproportionate to the fault itself. Evangelion’s fault was with the ending, and nothing has more negative impact on a viewer than a bad ending because it’s the last impression you leave with, the bad aftertaste of a banquet. It takes effort to override the feeling of a bad ending to remember your enjoyment before that moment. That was my weakness, to the point of venom.
To understand the significance of this ending, let’s go back to the start.
The world is nearing its end as Angels are descending from above to wipe out humanity. It has suffered two cataclysms already; it cannot withstand a third. The last hope lies with Nerv, a military agency in Tokyo 3 with only one weapon: the Evangelions, giant robots that can match the Angels. To unlock their full potential, they need pilots, 14-year-olds to be precise, capable of maximum synchronisation between human and machine. Shinji Ikari has been chosen to pilot EVA Unit-01, tearing him from his ordinary life to the frontlines where is father, who hasn’t cared for him in years, leads Nerv. He joins Rei, pilot of Unit-00, and Asuka of Unit-02 later.
Neon Genesis Evangelion has a perfect first episode, showcasing ‘in medias res’ (in the middle of things) with Shinji’s arrival in Tokyo 3. Misato, his guardian, is late as an Angel attacks, almost killing him, then a mine intended for the Angel detonates and rolls Misato’s car with him inside, ending the episode in him having to pilot the EVA. Rough first day. When you watch it, note how you understand the world and the situation without feeling lost, despite having zero lines of exposition. This episode and the three that follow are so strong that I watched the first DVD several times within a week as I waited to borrow the remainder from a friend at school. It sucked me into the world and I had to see more.
The first element that grabs me is the visual design. Evangelion wouldn’t have been so iconic without the unique look and feel to its world and mech designs. Everything was Gundam or a pale Gundam imitation at the time, so to see something so human and monstrous infused with mecha was revolutionary. The designs alone aren’t the reason for success. The use of the Evangelions cements them into memory. How often do you see a mech or vehicle so flashy, so overdesigned never justified by the anime? (“Why does that mech have giant spikes everywhere if it never uses them?”) Evangelions look the way they do for a reason and when that full potential blooms, it makes for the anime’s most memorable moments. That is to say, copying a Gundam design but keeping every Evangelion event the same wouldn’t have had half the impact than what we have here.
The second element of notice is the action and Angels. The action doesn’t simply look great; it’s creative. Hideaki Anno could have made the Angels straightforward Godzilla monsters that rampage about and take many shots to kill without effect on the grand plot. Instead, each Angel is creative in both design and threat. One Angel splits in two upon death only to regenerate a moment later, requiring both halves to die at the same moment, while another Angel is a nanoscopic virus that hacks Nerv’s central brains. Each encounter brings something new for the viewer and the characters. When Angels go after the mind or allies, Evangelion is at its best.
The human conflict adds a dozen layers of depth to humanity’s end. Shinji is a kid who just wants to feel needed, particularly by his arsehole of a father, though he is saving humanity, to be fair. His father has the weight of the world in his decisions. Not making him straight evil was a good choice.
Misato is another great character. She’s a total slob, drinks more beer than water and is a little pervy, but she has a good heart and cares for the kids – one of the few who does – making her the most human element of the series. Each supporting character receives enough attention for depth without breaking the hierarchy of importance to the plot.
I had it in memory that each DVD was worse than the previous until the final one nosedived. Rewatching Evangelion now though, I loved every episode until the 24th (rushed despite an amazing finale) because I can appreciate the points of view and purposes of characters I once didn’t like. For instance, I used to find Asuka annoying. She still is annoying, but I can see that she is a well-designed annoying. Perhaps it was Anno’s intent for teenage boys to find her annoying, much as Shinji does.
What turned me around on the majority of episodes was the craft that went into the mysteries that make the reader want to know more. As a teenager, I couldn’t perceive how the story metered out bits and pieces of information, foreshadowing greater reveals in the final act. Where did the technology for EVAs come from? What happened to Shinji’s mother? Who is Rei? So many questions. Study Evangelion if you want to learn the importance of mystery in narrative.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is well known for its psychological brutality and insane imagery, but there is a good amount of levity to stop the audience from wanting to completely blow their brains out quitting. Much of the humour revolves around Misato or takes place at school. She has this penguin living with her, not as a pet – maybe? More like a roommate. Who is this penguin? The strategic censorship is also funny and when Asuka moves in with Misato and Shinji, we get one of the greatest lines. Asuka wants to make-out with Shinji, you know, for fun, ‘cause that’s what girls do (?), but he hesitates and she mocks him. “I’m not afraid – pucker up!” he yells in retaliation.
Humour is important even to the darkest narratives, as it keeps the audience sustained and gives the dark moments more impact through contrast.
Evangelion reaches its darkest point in the two-episode finale, both in real life and in fiction. The original episodes 25 & 26 I still find terrible, if not worse because I can see more writing problems than before. The budget and time ran out, leaving almost no animation. Without going into spoilers, these episodes are mostly still shots of text, real life photos, and characters vomiting expository dialogue. Most attribute the poor quality to the visuals. Had the team had the budget, the episodes would have been great, they say. This isn’t true. Everything about these episodes is trash. The dialogue, the writing, the ideas, the imagery, the characterisation – all trash.
I hunted and bought The End of Evangelion after my school friends had mentioned a remake, though they hadn’t seen it. I eagerly booted it up and all seemed fixed. The visuals were back better than ever with spectacular action. The bad dialogue was gone. Each episode was double length. This was the ending Evangelion deserved. Then the climax began and threw all that the series had worked for, which to teenage me was a deal breaker, a ruiner of all good things. I hated the series since.
The climax is 20-minutes of imagery with a minute’s worth of plot. The visuals are nice and certainly better than the original version, but it’s too much when you don’t have the story to accompany it. The issue is build-up. It escalates and escalates, creating expectations that all will end in spectacular fashion. Instead…nothing. Now, a negative ending is fine but after such build-up, this just wastes the audience’s time. Five minutes of the best shots would have sufficed.
What do I think of the ending now? I don’t mind it as much. It’s still no good for the last 20 minutes, yet it no longer affects my opinion of the series prior. Simple compression would fix most problems.
And that’s where I stand today, at the end of a long journey of hate and love with a mere anime. I have debated at length with myself about where to score Neon Genesis Evangelion (one of the reasons for the review’s delay). I am still unsure. Who knows; perhaps I will change my thoughts again in fifteen years.
Art – Very High
It is incredible to think that we had such good-looking anime series in the 90s, drawn by hand. Evangelion doesn’t have the consistent animation of Cowboy Bebop, but its creative design drips with grit and atmosphere. Of course, this quality took a toll on the final two episodes. This rating assumes End of Evangelion replaces the original ending.
Sound – High
I didn’t notice until this viewing – because you often skip the ED after a few times – that the ending song changes each DVD to a different cover of Bart Howard’s ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ (popularised by Frank Sinatra). Some of these covers don’t work though I like the variety. Everyone knows the theme song ‘Cruel Angel Thesis’, which has become famous beyond its original use. Still a classic. The acting is where quality doesn’t quite hold up, in either language. A few examples: Asuka’s German in Japanese is…what Unit-01 does to the 13th Angel; several supporting English characters are a regular earsore; Japanese Shinji needed a male actor to pull off some scenes.
Story – Very High
Humanity faces the End Times and must place its hopes on three psychologically damaged teenagers and their mechs. Neon Genesis Evangelion never relents in punishing its characters, evoking a sense of hopeless that grips you until the finale disappoints. This rating assumes End of Evangelion replaces the original ending.
Overall Quality – Very High
Recommendation: A must watch. Regardless of how you feel in the end, Neon Genesis Evangelion is a must for any anime fan due to its importance and impact on the medium. Watch the original series with the director’s cut of episodes 21 to 24 (I insist) followed by The End of Evangelion. Return to the original ending for intellectual curiosity afterwards, if you wish (the remake reversed several decisions). Death & Rebirth can be ignored as a recap movie and the new scenes went into the director’s cut of the aforementioned episodes.
Photojournalist Maria and her partner are in Shanghai on the hunt for a juicy story. They happen upon more than they wished for when at a festival a man stumbles about, as if assaulted on all senses, and cries out before his eyes explode with blood. Gunfire rings throughout the festival. Out of nowhere, an old friend called Canaan comes to Maria’s aid. She has been working as a mercenary and is trailing a sinister organisation that intends to release a zombie-like virus. Since they want Maria dead as well, Canaan has no choice in protecting her friend if she is to keep her alive and unmask the enemy.
What we have here is a typical entry in the ‘gun girls’ anime genre, which was rather popular in the noughts (2000s? 00s?) for featuring largely female casts, a brooding protagonist, and many guns. Canaan is no different. Its main differentiating factor is the inclusion of light supernatural powers in several characters. For example, Canaan can combine her senses to give radar capabilities and mechanical hacking thanks to her synaesthesia (not how this condition works, at all, but what do you expect from Type-Moon’s research?) Another woman can kill with the sound of her voice. She has an interesting subplot and is one of the few mute/quiet anime characters that doesn’t come across as flat. The titular character herself could do with more dimension. Canaan lacks that certain something – fun, probably – which makes Revy from Black Lagoon a joy to watch. Her growing relationship with Maria prevents her from being a total bore, and it is a nice change to have a concrete yuri element rather than the vague hints from other gun girl anime.
Canaan does try to get all deep on us with metaphorical dialogue on occasion, which accomplishes nothing but demonstrate why you shouldn’t throw random nonsense into your script. The harm is minimal, in this case. I find the exposition worse, such as the very first line that has a narrator force information for our sakes.
Lastly, the action is equally typical of the genre. Don’t expect the insanity of Black Lagoon and you won’t be disappointed – the powers add a nice dimension. Small incidents will make you question logic, like why anyone would believe automatic gunfire is part of the festival dragon dance. They can see the guns! I think this was an attempt at heightening the action set piece, like adding a fruit stand to a car chase.
Is Canaan still worth it after all this time? It is unremarkable, but not bad either. Fans of the genre will know exactly what they’re in for, while everyone else should look elsewhere.
Art – Medium
Character designs are of the era for more mature series, yet not ‘literary’ mature like Monster. The environments are suitably grungy.
Sound – Medium
The acting is good and I enjoy the ethereal ending song.
Story – Medium
A photojournalist finds herself caught up in a plot to release a virus, but an old friend comes to the rescue. Canaan is one of the better ‘gun girls’ anime thanks to some interesting powers and enough movement in the plot to keep things engaging.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: For action fans. It’s simple: if you enjoy action with gun-toting women, Canaan is for you.
First it was one person transported to a fantasy world; then it was a city; then a country; nowadays they just let anyone in.
A portal opens in Tokyo, connecting our world to one of fantasy and an army of warriors and all manner of creatures spills out onto the streets of Ginza. They slaughter anyone in sight. Worst of all, the invasion has cancelled the doujin convention, which Youji was so looking forward to – he is an otaku after all, as he told us in scene one. The modern military pushes back the fantasy horde and ventures through the portal soon after to understand the source of this calamity. Youji finds himself leading a recon team – not that he wants to, or anything, because he is an otaku above all else. They will have to negotiate peace and broker truces if they mean to survive their adventure of elves, dragons, knights, and catgirls. Most of all, everyone must remember that Youji is an otaku.
I forgot one detail: Youji wants me to tell you that his is an otaku. Don’t forget it.
This dimwit has to remind us every scene. He doesn’t stop. Considering an otaku wrote this, you’d imagine the one character he would depict correctly would be the otaku. Self-inserts are rarely good, however. Best part? Him being an otaku has no bearing on the story in the end. Come. On!
Like this hollow protagonist, GATE puts no thought into building its world, societies, monsters, and magic. The writer took the base template of ‘fantasy world’ and added nothing to it, resulting in a world no one would care to learn more about. Why would you when there are no secrets to uncover, cultures to learn, or dynamics to understand? All the fantasy characters act too modern as well. They may not know what a gun is, but their behaviours and morals don’t differ from ours.
On the opposing side, the modern people are far too sane about crossing a portal to a fantasy world. Do none of them realise what this truly means?
The first episode is a deception, leveraging the idea of all-out war between modern and fantasy societies, when in actuality, GATE is more comedy than action and the two sides are at peace most of the time. Again, the fantasy people are too modern, accepting the army with ease, and Youji learns their language in about two seconds (you thought a dozen races would have different languages, didn’t you?) A lack of action is no loss in this case with how little thought went into it. Prepare to put an equal amount of thought into GATE if you mean to enjoy it.
Basic, very basic, politics contribute the most to conflict with one king wanting to seize power, while a group in the Japanese government considers sealing access to the gate from other countries to secure the new world resources, resources that the fantasy residents are oblivious to.
The comedy is fairly good among the main group, which teams up with an elf, a mage, a death oracle, and more before long. A soldier with the catgirl fetish loses it when he meets one. If you can’t make meaningful tension, then amusing humour is better than nothing for a modicum of enjoyment.
Art – Medium
The art is your decent modern quality. Though why do most girls have lines across their irises? It makes them look full of tears.
Sound – Low
Voices are average in a weak script.
Story – Low
A portal connecting our world to one of fantasy initiates a new type of conflict. GATE would greatly benefit from world building and a different protagonist to engage the audience.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: For bored fantasy fans only. GATE’s sole merit is its ease of consumption for anyone who doesn’t want to think about it. This is trash, but it might be your sort of trash.
Iron Man was the first of the Marvel anime and like the other titles, this takes place in Japan with billionaire inventor Tony Stark arriving in the land of the rising sun to unveil his Arc Station, which would supply clean energy to the country free of charge. He intends to announce his retirement as Iron Man at the ceremony and have a new generation of armour pilots take over. It all goes wrong, however, when his new armours turn on the people.
The ‘Iron Man in Japan’ conceit may sound forced for the local market, but it has precedence in the comics. Tony had a significant arc in Japan as he dated a Japanese woman (same one as in this anime? I can’t recall), which made this adaptation smoother than the likes of Blade.
Iron Man is decent if you want a straightforward plot with action, life-threating dilemmas, and comic book craziness. The plot later incorporates a virus, mind control, and mechs.
This anime has two huge problems: the Marvel movies and the variety of Western Iron Man/Avengers cartoons available. Why bother with this anime when you can watch those instead? This applies to all Marvel anime productions. They are decent at best, which isn’t good enough to warrant your attention unless you really want to see Marvel characters in anime.
It may be harsh to have much of the criticism relate to other adaptations, but every viewer will make the comparisons regardless. Even standalone, what you have here in Iron Man is your average action series.
Art – Medium
The art is good, but Iron Man’s CG, while not the worst, does standout at times. A hell of a lot better than Blade (effort ran out by the fourth series?)
Sound – Medium
Neither audio track has enough charisma for Tony Stark – decent otherwise.
Story – Low
Tony Stark goes to Japan to unveil his Arc Station and a new line of power armour with hopes of retiring, but a criminal organisation puts those plans on hold. The story get silly in the end, but it’s okay overall.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: Eh… Watch the movies or Western cartoons instead unless you want an anime that requires no concentration to enjoy.