Tag Archives: Guns

Portable firearms play a prominent role.

City Hunter – Anime Review

Japanese Title: City Hunter

 

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

Angel Heart (spin-off)

Similar: Black Lagoon

Golden Boy

Trigun

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Action Comedy

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

 

Positives:

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

Negatives:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art – Medium

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

Sound – Medium

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

Story – Medium

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

Overall Quality – Medium

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

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

Positive: None

Negative: None

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Durarara!! – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Durarara!!

 

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

Similar: Baccano!

K

Darker than Black

Death Note

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Action Mystery

Length: 24 episodes

 

Positives:

  • High visual and audio production values.

Negatives:

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

(Request an anime for review here.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art – High

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

Sound – Medium

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

Story – Low

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

Overall Quality – Low

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

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Poor PacingShallow

Outlaw Star – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Seihou Bukyou Outlaw Star

 

Related: Angel Links (spin-off)

Similar: Cowboy Bebop

Trigun

Space Dandy

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Action Adventure Comedy

Length: 24 episodes, 2 OVA

 

Positives:

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

Negatives:

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

(Request an anime for review here.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art – High

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

Sound – Medium

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

Story – Medium

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

Overall Quality – Medium

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

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

Positive: None

Negative: None

Ergo Proxy – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Ergo Proxy

 

Similar: Psycho-Pass

Serial Experiments Lain

Texhnolyze

Ghost in the Shell

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Mystery Science Fiction

Length: 23 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Delightfully grim art.
  • The side story episodes.
  • Moments of brilliance.

Negatives:

  • Muddle storytelling obfuscates greatness.
  • Several useless episodes.

(Request an anime for review here.)

One of humanity’s last civilisations resides within the domed city of Romdo, where robots called AutoReivs supplement the low population on the path to humanity’s recovery. When a virus begins to infect these robots, Re-l Mayer gets on the case with her AutoReiv Iggy, but the case grows beyond her imagination and out of her control when a sentient and independent robot confronts her at home.

Despite what the setup may tell you, Ergo Proxy isn’t a crime series along the lines of Psycho-Pass and Ghost in the Shell. This focuses on the psychological, taking Re-l, Iggy, and AutoReiv engineer Vincent on a mind-altering adventure into the heart of Romdo and beyond its walls.

A favourite old movie of mine is Logan’s Run, which also uses the premise of escaping humanity’s last bastion, a domed city where the rulers justify the control they exert over the people. Such a similarity had me excited for Ergo Proxy, as did the dark style. I love the AutoReiv designs – they recall Jhin from League of Legends. Their masks give the feeling that they’re hiding something, made even more suspicious by their “natural” personalities. Iggy follows the rules to the letter, though will bend if you present a loophole.

The story starts strong with plenty of intrigue. No one believes Re-l’s story of the demonic ‘Proxy’ AutoReiv and someone has modified Iggy’s memory. The journey beyond the dome continues the intrigue. However, it isn’t long before the story takes a backseat to psychology. Rather than weave it into story, Ergo Proxy pauses to dump psychology through a jumble of mind-numbing scenes.

Have you ever watched two similar stories, found one engaging and the other boring or difficult to finish, and couldn’t put your finger on what made the difference? They were both well made and had good actors, so why weren’t they of equal quality? It’s in the storytelling techniques. You often see this distinction between great crime serials and the mediocre. The better series will show you the criminal mind and the detective’s process, whereas the other will sit you down and tell you what you should take away from the drama. Ergo Proxy has this problem with its psychology.

It’s hard to convey without showing the series, so I will use an example. One character suffers from an identity crisis with possible split-personality disorder. Instead of showing us this condition, this character has another character over the shoulder saying, “This is not your true self. The other you is your reality. Search your feelings; you know it be true,” (or something similar). For two episodes! It is nonsensical babbling, unneeded because later episodes gives us the relevant information again. This isn’t the only instance.

Ergo Proxy strikes at mind-bending scenarios about mistaken identities, existential crises, and philosophy, but it often gets lost in itself at the expense of cohesion. This results from being ‘too close’ to the art as the creator. When you write a story, you become the worst person to check if it makes sense, for the complete, sensible story in your mind automatically fixes any problems on the page before you have a chance to notice them.

Oddly enough, side episodes with no direct story relevance are my favourite. One episode has Vincent participate in a quiz show with the questions revealing lore and history about the world. A later episode is set in a bizzaro Disneyland, where the animal mascots are real, as made by a tyrannical Walt Disney. These episodes are refreshing in their clarity and fast pace. Yes, they are allegories about the society in which they live and they still have undercurrents of psychology, just without the drudgery.

I heard someone say that to “get” Ergo Proxy you must understand all of its symbolism and metaphors, which isn’t true. The core plot is a simple one of identity crisis – the symbolism is mere fluff that impedes more than it assists.

The psychological focus over crime wasn’t a mistake – I love psychology – but the narrative techniques to convey this psychology were a mistake. Some would have you believe that Ergo Proxy is a truly mind boggling experience requiring a very high IQ and a solid grasp in theoretical physics to appreciate its subtle genius. Is it pretentious? No, I wouldn’t say so. You don’t get the sense that Studio Manglobe wanted to come across as artsy. They tried something different and it simply didn’t work as well as they had hoped. They were too caught up in the process to step back and see what worked.

Art – High

The dark and grim visual style is perfect for Ergo Proxy and it has great cinematography.

Sound – Medium

I love the choir music. The acting is good in either language – needs a tighter script.

Story – Medium

In a domed city of people and robots, a routine investigation leads a woman to question her world and venture beyond the city walls. Ergo Proxy’s good ideas lie behind walls of unsound storytelling techniques that make it an effort to finish.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. Ergo Proxy has limited appeal, but this psychological tale’s strange world and style will enrapture a select few.

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

Positive: None

Negative: None

Bayonetta: Bloody Fate – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Bayonetta: Bloody Fate

 

Similar: Hellsing Ultimate

Trinity Blood

Castlevania

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Japanese & English

Length: Fantasy Action

 

Positives:

  • Looks great.
  • Bayonetta looks even better.
  • Flashy and stylish, but…

Negatives:

  • …nothing compared to the games.
  • Clumsy use of exposition.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Bayonetta 1 & 2 are the flashiest, most stylish, and greatest spectacle action games of all time, starring the sexiest lady in gaming. These games are fast and crazy, so Bayonetta: Bloody Fate has much to live up to.

Umbra Witch Bayonetta searches for her memories assisted by bartending weaponsmith Robin, dogged by journalist Luka, challenged by rival witch Jeanne, and attacked on all fronts by forces of Light. The journey twists when she meets a little girl also chased by hordes of Angels.

Much like Neon Genesis Evangelion, this franchise takes the biblical End Times view of heaven and angels, giving us some of the most weird and twisted angel designs ever created. Just look at Fortitudo below (yes, he is the right way up). The Angel boss fights are epic in the games and though you do feel some sense of that in the anime, it simply isn’t the same. That’s the problem with Bloody Fate: despite being flashy, stylish, and crazy, it is nothing compared to the games.

Even so, this isn’t a bad game-to-anime adaptation – a hell of a lot better than Devil May Cry of the same genre. Bloody Fate goes through the story of the first Bayonetta game, almost exactly – they even incorporate the motorbike level reworked for story flow. This feels as though it came from a team that actually played the game first, but had time limitations to contend with and made the best of it. What we do receive is plenty of fun.

However, the anime lacks the sense of lore and myth, for lack of better terms, that the games used to convey story. These shortcuts are the curse of any game-to-anime adaptation. As such, you need to have played the game to understand the Angels and Witches fully. The other glaring issue, one I don’t recall being in the game, is the exposition. Heavens above! Ninety percent of exposition is one character telling another character what they both already know. What makes this particularly strange is that other characters who don’t know the information could be used instead.

If your interest is the action, then there are no problems. Bayonetta still tears it up in her usual sexy manner.

I’m not sure for whom this is intended. Fans will prefer the game in every way, while new viewers will miss much of the context from not having played the game. I enjoyed it as a piece of nostalgia taking me back to the game, which I haven’t played in years but now want to revisit. Perhaps that is the true purpose of Bayonetta: Bloody Fate

Art – High

Looks great with stylish action and sexy characters. A faithful recreation of the source material.

Sound – Medium

This Japanese track is fine, but nothing beats Bayonetta’s voice in English. Boy does the script need work though – an amateurclass in exposition. I wish more of the game’s songs made it to the anime.

Story – Low

The sexiest witch in Heaven and Earth hunts down divinity’s minions in the search for her past. The characters still have the fun from the games, yet the truncated story and lack of ‘gameplay story’ is noticeable.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For fans of Bayonetta or flashy action. Without background context from the first game, the anime adaption is a bit vague unless all you care about is the action.

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

Positive:

Negative: None