Tag Archives: Mature

Not suitable for a young audience.

Elfen Lied – Review

Japanese Title: Elfen Lied

 

Similar: When They Cry

Mirai Nikki

Deadman Wonderland

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Horror Action Romance

Length: 13 episodes & 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • An unsettling atmosphere crafted by contrasting the innocence of children with hyper-violent gore.
  • Haunting opening theme and soundtrack inspired by Gregorian chant.
  • The telekinetic protagonist’s volatile nature creates plenty of tension.

Negatives:

  • The clichéd humour doesn’t ever lighten the mood, which can make the constant tension exhausting.
  • The male love interest is a weak character that serves little purpose to the core.
  • In trying to imitate the Japanese voice track too closely, the English voices sound awful despite the skilled actors. The Japanese isn’t ideal either.
  • Outside of action scenes, most animation ceases.

A severed arm twitching in a pool of blood. Decapitated heads sail across the room, blood sprays the walls. Screams fill the air. At the centre of the carnage, a young girl, naked. Don’t be fooled by the innocent looking girl; Elfen Lied is violent and bathed in gore, not an anime for the faint of heart.

In the world of Elfen Lied (German for ‘Elven Song’) exists a race known as Diclonius. Human in appearance other than small horns protruding from the skull, Diclonii control telekinetic arms called vectors capable of tearing people in two with a flick. Their purpose is to eliminate humanity and spawn a population of their own. Lucy, the protagonist, is one such Diclonius, who escapes from the laboratory, massacring guards and researchers on the way out. She ends up on a beach in front of Kouta, the male love interest, and his friend Yuka. Her mind traumatised by a gunshot, Lucy now lies dormant, replaced by Nyuu, an innocent alter-personality with the mental development of a child. The laboratory dispatches other Diclonii and a mercenary to hunt Lucy down.

Elfen Lied is an anime of tension. It juxtaposes the young innocence of the characters with the violent nature of their telekinetic powers. How can something so small be so psychotic? Every scene with Nyuu is tense, for she could snap at any moment. A mere second of lost control and a character loses a limb or their head. A Diclonius doesn’t discriminate. Man, woman, child – all die in Elfen Lied. Elfen Lied is brutal and gory, contains child and animal abuse on physical and emotional levels. Do not watch this if you are prone to nightmares.

Nyuu/Lucy duality brings an interesting dynamic to the story. While her innocence is what keeps the power at bay, it is also her greatest weakness, as she is too naïve to control her power. It reminds of the 1931 Frankenstein film (which I highly recommend, by the way) where the monster doesn’t comprehend that actions have consequences, especially when those actions can be so destructive. Elfen Lied explores the nature of humanity, and what can come from it when a child is isolated, abused, and pushed to the limit. It accomplishes this goal rather well.

Music enhances these moments where a character’s psyche breaks and violence paints the screen. The opening is a tragic Latin opera called ‘Lilium,’ set to bizarre symbolist art inspired by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt. The hymn unsettles, a warning for what is to come. Several versions of ‘Lilium’ play throughout the series and are an important role in the narrative.

Unfortunately, that’s where the positives end. Outside of the Diclonii, the rest of the characters are either underdeveloped or dull. Kouta in particular is weak. While his backstory is good and ties with Lucy’s plot line, as a character he has no purpose other than to serve as a romantic device. He is just so dull. A street lamp with a blown bulb would be more interesting. Yuka is even more useless. She is nothing more than the third point for a love triangle. The writers could have cut her from the series with no effect on the plot. The romance between her and Kouta is lame, filled with generic misunderstandings and anime romance tropes. What little humour Elfen Lied has is trite, seen in every anime teen romance – trip over each other, grabbing the breast, up-skirts, etc.

The average voice acting doesn’t help either. Even though Japan records all actors at once, here they sound stilted with no interactions off each other. The dub is even worse. Kouta’s voice actor is as deadpan as the character, and the female actors tried too hard to imitate their Japanese counterparts, resulting in these awful squeaky voices. No child sounds like that! What’s strange is that the English cast has done great work elsewhere (same team as Full Metal Panic and RahXephon, both great English tracks), but here they sound like amateurs.

Despite all Elfen Lied does wrong, I enjoyed the story. It’s a great example of using gore to enhance the narrative surrounding innocent characters.

Art – Medium

Mouth movements comprise all the animation in most non-action scenes; sometimes, even the mouth doesn’t bother, too exhausted it seems. Other than the action scenes, visual details are low. The manga creator intentionally chose a ‘moe’ artist for the anime to enhance the contrast between innocence and violence. However, this style doesn’t look the greatest, especially on Kouta. Gore and action is great.

Sound – Medium

A great Gregorian chant-inspired soundtrack and tension music brought down by an average Japanese voice track, and an even worse English one.

Story – Medium

Protagonist Lucy carries the violent narrative with her dual personas and volatile nature. Shame then that the other pieces of her love triangle are worthless.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Elfen Lied is a worthwhile anime for fans of uncensored violence. Watch in doses of three episodes at a time to avoid exhaustion from the constant tension.

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

Positive:

Great MusicGreat OP or ED SequenceHoly S***

Negative:

Useless Side Cast

Berserk – Review

Japanese Title: Kenpuu Denki Berserk

 

Related: Berserk: The Golden Age (remake)

Similar: Claymore

Gungrave

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Horror Fantasy

Length: 25 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Good animation, especially considering the show’s age.
  • Guts is a great lead character that portrays a more believable muscle-bound character than most other anime.
  • English voice track is well done for the most part.
  • Properly used horror in an interesting plot.
  • ‘Forces’ music track fills one with epicness.

Negatives:

  • Incomplete, cliffhanger ending.
  • First episode is deceptive due to the incomplete ending, and the next few episodes are slow to start.
  • Opening and closing sequences will leave you horror-struck with lacklustre quality.
  • Poor use of what little music there is.

Berserk came out during a time when anime in the West was marketed towards a broader audience, even going so far as to censor elements or tone down language to reach the young demographic. Outside of films like Akira and Ghost in the Shell, you had to search high and low for mature anime that wasn’t terrible. Then Berserk came along with its dark themes, unadulterated horror and violence to show us just how adult anime could be.

Berserk centres on Guts, the orphan swordsman, and Griffith, leader of a mercenary band, as they fight for their country of Midland. However, Griffith has ambitions beyond just fighting for a king; he wants to be king. Griffith’s plans test the loyalties of Guts and his mercenaries to the limit. Berserk focuses on themes of loyalty, isolation, and the fundamentals of humanity, the nature of good and evil innate with us. Be forewarned, this anime gets dark, very dark, contains nudity, plenty of violence, and gore everywhere. These aspects are not thrown in at random. No violence for the sake of violence. Gore for the sake of gore. Each use is relevant, an uncensored view of the scene.

Guts is a fantastic protagonist, a badass anti-hero, who wields a giant sword that can cut horses in half. Normally, wielding a giant sword is indicative of a terrible character, one that the creators put no thought into, especially when it comes to physics. With Guts however, he has the look and ferocity of a man who can wield such a weapon. The animators made the effort to show the heft of swinging such a heavy weapon; Guts doesn’t twirl it around like a baton as seen in other anime and games. As a character, Guts goes through a range of emotional and physical trials, exemplifying his depth. When designing a brawny character, look to Guts for the archetype done right.

Griffith too is a suitably complex character with his own strengths and weaknesses, exploring the price of ambition, but to elaborate further would constitute spoilers, so I shall stop there. The supporting cast of mercenaries is a mixed bag of quality, but they are good when it counts, Casca in particular who struggles with her identity as a women in a band of men. Villains, ranging from generals to nobles, are despicably evil, sick and twisted, some with magic elements thrown in.

There are two major narrative faults. The first episode can confuse viewers, being a flash-forward that we never return to because of the second fault, the finale. Berserk is incomplete; after an awesome adventure that keeps getting better and a horrifying finale, the series ends on a cliffhanger. It is clear they intended to have a sequel series, but never got around to it. (They did go back to the beginning again with the recent release of Berserk: The Golden Age; however, that’s a new take on the manga, so you won’t get closure on this version.)

Berserk comes highly recommended. Just don’t watch it if you can’t handle the thought of an incomplete anime. You could read the manga afterwards, however. Also, not for children – can’t stress this enough.

Art – High

You will find higher quality anime these days, of course, but Berserk’s gritty medieval style doesn’t feel dated beyond the use of action lines and slow motion to hide the occasional low frame rate.

Sound – Medium

Has one of the best tracks in anime: ‘Forces.’ Even so, the soundtrack is limited and hardly used. Many battles have no music for some reason, not for added effect. The opening and ending themes are awful, sung in terrible English and don’t fit the series – just…awful. The acting is good in either language, though I found the English suited the characters better, except for Griffith; his English actor can’t command the scene as Griffith should.

Story – High

An excellent fantasy tale of corruption and loyalty with a good cast of characters brought to a halt by a cliffhanger ending and no continuation.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: A must for fans of dark fantasy that doesn’t shy away from the realities of battle and horror. No incomplete anime deserved a conclusion more than Berserk.

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

Positive:

Extensive Character DevelopmentHoly S***Riveting ActionStrong Lead Characters

Negative: None

 

Bartender – Review

Japanese Title: Bartender

 

Similar: Ristorante Paradiso

Gallery Fake

Death Parade

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Slice of Life

Length: 11 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Pleasant music.
  • Attention to detail on the subject matter of alcoholic drinks.

Negatives:

  • Dull unless you love alcoholic drinks’ history.
  • No mystery or intrigue with a slow pace.
  • Uninteresting characters.
  • Almost no animation.

With little to say about Bartender, this will be a short review. As the name implies, this anime is about a bartender who can mix drinks like no other. By observing behaviour and attire, he can discern which drink is best for the individual. He remembers every drink he has served to any given person, while being a well of knowledge on all alcohol.

That’s really it. Each episode focuses on a few drinks, gives you their history, tells you the recipe, and wraps it in a light story of the bartender helping someone, possibly depressed, or in a search for the perfect drink, or someone in need of help. In every case, there is little conflict, if any, and most of the time passes with the facts. The lack of mystery had me dying to move on to another show.

Needless to say, this is a boring show to any but the most interested fans of alcoholic drinks and related history. It overestimates what alcohol does for people as if such drinks create miracles for your soul. While it is charming to see such passion and attention to detail for the subject matter, we all know that it’s far from reality – this isn’t the place for that debate, though.

Bartender is an alcohol history program swirling in a glass of anime with a taste of jazz and a slice of plot on the side.

Art – Medium

The environments are quite good, suiting the look of a bar. However, with no variety, get used to seeing the same compositions throughout. They shouldn’t have used CG for the drinks, as to stand out from the surroundings.

Sound – High

Music is Bartender’s strongest aspect. The jazz and piano tunes are fitting to the bar environment – it is exactly what you would expect from a quiet drinks lounge. Opening sequence is a mismatch, while the ending is perfect, using live-action footage of a bartender showing you how to mix a new drink each episode as musicians perform. It may be worth getting this soundtrack.

Story – Low

Not much one can do with a story whose focus is on alcoholic drinks in a bar.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For fans of alcoholic drinks and their history; boring to everyone else.

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

Positive:

Great Music

Negative:

Poor Pacing Shallow

Bakemonogatari – Review

Japanese Title: Bakemonogatari

 

Related: Nisemonogatari (sequel)

Similar: Katanagatari

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy Romance

Length: 13 episodes (12 is the finale; 13 is a bonus)

 

Positives:

  • Fantastic art style and animation to create a vibrant, yet haunting world.
  • Well-suited music to the dialogue heavy plot.
  • Strong male and female protagonists.
  • Solid voice work to accompany the varied dialogue.
  • Dark humour from lead female is a pleasant change of pace.

Negatives:

  • Incoherent story overall marred by throwaway side characters.
  • Random screens of text flashing every few seconds.
  • Sexually creepy at times.
  • Too little character development, even from the protagonists.
  • No world building despite the incredible visual design.

Bakemonogatari is one weird anime. You don’t get many as weird as this one. This anime has people with spaghetti for brains and staplers as weapons. Probably the most normal thing here, as far as anime goes, is starting with a pantie-shot. From then on, it goes to a whole different dimension. The question we ask ourselves: Is this weirdness good? It does create greatness, but unfortunately, it brings several poor decisions along for the ride.

Immediately, I was struck by the vivid art of Bakemonogatari. Its brilliant use of light, shade, and colour is gorgeous. There is style here, plenty of it. Gradients give backgrounds depth on top of the multi-layering. All colour choice is deliberate, intended to match the mood and atmosphere of the characters and their situations, even at the cost of continuity – a room could be bright one moment and change to dark if the situation called for it, regardless of realism.

It is a shame then that poor choices mar these visuals. Bakemonogatari use a mix of live-action, stop-motion, collage pages, and text for metaphors and similes. At times, the change in art is both hilarious and clever, the rest, tedious and forced. The worst offenders are the screens of text; they flash at random intervals for no purpose. Every instance broke my immersion. Get used to seeing a flat colour with Japanese lettering and the subtitle ‘unidentified cut’ underneath. A dozen times. Per episode. Every episode. Unbelievably stupid decision to kill the atmosphere. It feels as though they had a great idea to use live-action, collages, and so on, and found them to work so well that they thought, ‘why not add more?!’ only to kill it all by going too far. Such a shame.

The plot swims in much the same ocean as the alternative art styles: greatness weighed by poor decisions. We start with protagonist, Araragi, running up a grand spiral staircase in what you can assume is his high-school (most expensive high-school I have ever seen, especially considering no one goes there – more later). He looks up to see a girl falling down the hundred-meter tower. He catches her (don’t question how she drifts twenty meters from the central axis into the stairs) only to find she weighs five kilos (still enough that it should have broken his arms from that height, however). With Senjougahara’s secret revealed, she cannot let him go; she attacks armed with a box cutter and a stapler. After she staples the inside of his cheek for the fun of it, he pulls open his mouth to show no wound. Turns out Araragi recently reverted to human after a stint as a vampire. They become tenuous allies to return Senjougahara’s stolen weight (from a giant ghost crab that also took her memories) with the help of his acquaintance who cured his vampirism.

This initial premise captured my interest; unfortunate then that it lasted but a few episodes before it took a tangent about a little girl with another supernatural problem. The tangent itself wasn’t poor, but lacked development of the main plot and romance. When yet another girl with a paranormal issue enters afterwards, one realises this show is on a formulaic cycle and has little to do with the initial promise. His former life as a vampire has no bearing on the plot. Senjougahara’s backstory seems forgotten, and the relationship development stalls until episode twelve – a fantastic episode, admittedly.

In all, five girls partake, including the lead female, which is why you see Bakemonogatari categorised as a harem anime, yet this isn’t one. Yes, creepy sexualisation exists with a side character or two, but nothing that constitutes a relationship or even a crush required by harem anime. At least they made the correct decision in that aspect.

One of the strangest factors is how the entire world’s population is nine: protagonist, five girls, mystic, minor vampire girl, and Senjougahara’s father. That’s it. No background characters at all, not even in a school big enough to have a glass tower of no purpose, and parking for a thousand bicycles. Is this a problem though? Not really, but it did reduce world depth. This brings me to another negative: no world building. Why is this ghost crab after her? Where do all these supernatural elements come from? Where is the lore, the backstory? You get nothing. The world feels empty despite the visual depth.

Bakemonogatari is heavily dialogue driven. You have to pay attention, as it moves at a brisk pace while you extrapolate what is relevant from the random junk littered throughout. Episodes tend to diverge halfway through into some long-winded tangent before they return on track – medium success rate. The camera likes to cut away to different angles during dialogue. Focus on someone’s feet, then their hands, the corner of the table, the wall, a badly framed shot of the face. Prepare for irrelevance as well. The side of a building, some grass, a window, dirt, more grass…

Allow me to stress that this isn’t for children, and not because of the nudity. Topics of discussion range from Araragi’s virginity to Senjougahara’s choice of clothing and even to some specific types of incest-like fetishes. Honestly, I didn’t even know those were actual fetishes… Anyway, they deal with deep psychological issues caused by broken families and assault on loved ones. Dialogues are largely between the two lead characters, where Bakemonogatari is at its best. The dynamic between these two is a pleasure to watch. I find it hilarious how her attempts to help him with problems (she’s the more mature of the two), end up abusing him instead, making things worse, except, she honestly believes she’s helping. The humour is along those lines: serious in delivery, ironic in reception. His stray lock of hair being a symbol for his arousal level is clever too.

Despite the negatives, Bakemonogatari is still an anime worth watching. For maximum enjoyment, I recommend you watch no more than three episodes at a time to avoid overload and to maintain your focus throughout. Marvel at the art, focus on the lead characters, and you will end with a positive opinion.

Art – Very High

Truly spectacular. From the light to the shade, marvellous work here. However, it is brought down by some obnoxious screen flashes that occur far too often.

Sound – High

The right actors to match the great dialogue. Music is enjoyable too, outside of the opening and closing sequences.

Story – High

Moments of greatness distracted by random elements thrown in for the sake of being random. Three of the five story arcs fall flat.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Watch this for what it does right. Take Bakemonogatari in small doses to stave off what it does wrong.

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

Positive:

Engaging DialogueStrong Lead CharactersStunning Art Quality

Negative:

Hollow World BuildingIncoherentMisleading

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi – Review

Japanese Title: Abenobashi Mahou Shoutengai

 

Similar: FLCL

Excel Saga

 

Genre: Fantasy Comedy.

Watched in: Japanese.

Length: 13 episodes.

 

Positives:

  • Nothing.

Negatives:

  • No visual detail, other than breast physics.
  • Mind-numbing characters meandering through a pathetic plot.
  • Several disturbing elements like underage nudity.
  • Unfunny comedy.
  • The character voice work, especially for the protagonists, is either loud or whiny at all times, which gets annoying fast.
  • Incoherent…everything.

Where to start, where to start… This anime is terrible. There is really no other way to put it. I could probably leave it at that and advise you never lay eyes on this abomination, but you deserve elaboration.

The characters are awful. Not a single one of them is redeemable in any way. Every episode, you have to endure obnoxious character after obnoxious character, especially the leads. The boy, Sasshi, spends all his time either yelling like a twit or fantasising about fondling – among other things – the breasts of his older sister and grandmother… (As I write this, he just made out with his grandmother…)

No, you didn’t misread.

He is rounded out in stupidity by his friend, Arumi, who yells just as much he does, but thankfully doesn’t dream of groping her family. When she isn’t yelling, Arumi keeps hitting the kid over the head with a paper fan – typical aggressive anime girl behaviour – only, she doesn’t hit him when he’s at his stupidest. To be fair, that would mean her hitting him non-stop. For a comedy, they simply aren’t funny.

The supporting cast in no better. We have this old woman, (possibly a man, though she does have personal airbags on her) who hits on the kid, a low teen…and likes to be whipped and ridden by little boys. Sasshi’s older sister is even creepier as she’s always in the least amount of clothing for her younger brother…and likes to play dominatrix with her father and grandfather, followed by her brother. This has got to be some twisted fan-fiction; it’s the only explanation. There’s also a blue haired man called Abe, I think (unmemorable), who is supposed to be the sage or sorcerer of this world, or something. I have no idea, as he’s pointless.

The greatest mental challenge this anime presents is whether the characters or story are worse. The narrative, such nonsense, is difficult to describe. Best I give you random bits first (it will make just as much sense either way.)

It starts with the news that the restaurant owned by the girl’s family will be closing, the latest of many shops in the same shopping centre. That’s where the normality ends. Dragons appear in the sky, old people morph into mushrooms, and a rainbow bridge manifests before them. The two kids are transported to different worlds, each depicting the shopping arcade in alternate realities, a parody of something famous: Voltron, Bruce Lee, film noire, JRPGs, Apocalypse Now, etc. This isn’t anything new, to use a different pre-established world episode to episode, and has produced great results in the likes of Doctor Who. With Abenobashi however, it is nothing more than a gimmick, as the humour has nothing to do with the parody subject. Take, for example, the film noire episode: the joke is that getting shot turns you into a comic relief midget… Yeah, I don’t get it.

In the JRPG parody, they defeat the Great Evil Lord, a giant skeleton in armour, by waving a giant floppy sword (not a euphemism) at its chest so that its breasts inflate to such a massive size that, get this, it falls over and they pop, defeating the creature… I can’t make this up.

Wait there’s more! There are breasts bouncing around as balls, dinosaurs with breasts bigger than their heads, and you have to watch the kid urinate while running with his seabiscuit in hand. The humour is random and relies too much on the characters being imbeciles. They try throw a twist to the story, but since I care naught for anything at this point, I laugh (for the first time) at how feeble the writing is. Zero coherency and zero intelligence are the themes of this show.

At first, I thought Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi  would be weird and simply not my sort of thing. A few episodes in however, it became more and more twisted, less and less funny. There is little to analyse here, for nothing makes sense, even the message they try to cram in at the end. I cannot fathom what audience the creators had in mind because it is inappropriate for kids with its underage nudity and not-so-subtle sexualisation, while too stupid for adults.

Art – Low

With characters super deformed for comedic effect at all times, it kills any potential for visual humour. No effort went into the art, especially the characters with no detail or lighting depth to them. Voice and mouth doesn’t synchronise half the time.

Sound – Very Low

Many of the music tracks are rip-offs of famous themes, especially Star Wars ones, done poorly. The voice acting is as obnoxious and ear grating as the characters, no matter if many of these actors have done great voices elsewhere. You may claim hearing damage compensation.

Story – Very Low

Such rubbish. The obnoxious and creepy characters would have been fine if humorous. They aren’t.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Don’t watch this torture. Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi isn’t even so bad it’s good.

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

Positive: None.

Negative:

Atrocious PlotEar Grating Voice WorkIncoherentInduces StupidityNot FunnyRubbish CharactersTorture MusicUgly Artistic Design