Tag Archives: Monsters

Rawr! From the large (Godzilla) to the small (Zombie).

Slayers – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Slayers

 

Related: Slayers Next (sequel)

Slayers: The Motion Picture (prequel)

Similar: Orphen

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Fantasy Comedy Action Adventure

Length: 26 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Plenty of great humour.
  • Fun characters.
  • Best worst voice acting from priestess Sylphiel.
  • Colourful art.

Negatives:

  • Low production quality.

Lina Inverse (the inspiration for DotA 2’s Lina hero) is a powerful sorceress with a hunger for treasure and all-you-can-eat buffets – and a secret desire for a larger bust size. Along with handsome, gallant, dim-witted knight Gourry, she travels the land in search of treasure and monster bounties, all the while hunted by bandits and an evil priest who seeks to resurrect the Dark Lord. Along the way, Lina and Gourry stop for regular eating contests against each other.

Straight up, Slayers is hilarious. From Gourry’s inability to remember names, to Lina doing more harm than good with her signature spell ‘Dragon Slave,’ to priestess Sylphiel’s voice acting, Slayers is packed with laughs. Gourry having to marry a warrior – Gourry as the bride – to secure safe passage across the sea, only to face an effeminate dragon, had me in stitches. And the voice work in English makes it even funnier. Hearing Pokémon’s Brock as Gourry makes the dim-wittedness all the better; it truly seems as if Brock is roleplaying a knight. Ash as a little girl? Perfect. Professor Oak as a bandit burned by Lina to the point where he now looks like a mummy? Couldn’t be better. Even Sylphiel’s weak performance, makes it all the funnier.

There isn’t much more you need to know beyond that. Slayers has plenty of humour, magic, action, modern references, and fun characters to keep you entertained throughout. Yes, the plot is typical for a morning cartoon, but the humour elevates Slayers above the rest.

I went in with low expectations and came out with pain in my sides. An easy recommendation.

Art – Medium

Doesn’t look great; morning kids’ cartoon quality, but don’t let that get in the way. The deformed style and colouring match the humour, so it doesn’t detract from the experience.

Sound – High

Highly recommended you watch in English. Made even funnier when you recognise the Pokémon voice cast. However, best of all is Sylphiel, whose acting is so bad, so unenthusiastic that it is hilarious. She is the voice I hear inside my head when I do a sarcastic “Oh no, don’t kill off that irritating character. Nooooo….”

Story – Medium

A straightforward fantasy adventure to stop the Dark Lord. Doesn’t hold any surprises plot-wise, but plenty in the comedy department.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Watch it, even with the mid overall quality. The humour in Slayers is enough to warrant a viewing. Don’t feel intimidated by the length of the numerous sequels, for the first season has enough to satisfy.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

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

Positive:

CharmHilariousPositive Recommended English Voice Track

Negative: None

Gantz – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Gantz

 

Related: Gantz: Second Stage (sequel – included in review)

Similar: Elfen Lied

Btooom!

Deadman Wonderland

High School of the Dead

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Gore Action Horror Science Fiction

Length: 13 episodes (S1) & 13 episodes (S2)

 

Positives:

  • It ends.

Negatives:

  • Every. Single. Character. Is shit.
  • Sliding animations everywhere.
  • Gory action that puts one to sleep.
  • No understanding of humans and emotions.
  • Awful script forces weak acting.
  • Music that made me watch on mute with subtitles for parts.
  • No attempts at explaining the lore.

Welcome to the worst anime I have ever seen. Gantz, what a load of arse gravy. Arse gravy as a result of gutter burritos and beer made from the Yangtze River all right before one stumbles into the service station to destroy the restroom. I hate this anime. I rarely hate any piece of art, no matter how poor its quality. But Gantz, this is a special kind of atrocity.

Gantz is anime’s attempt at the SAW franchise, where gore and violence replace plot and effort. Yet, even SAW, a series I have no praise for, is a masterpiece compared to this.

Gantz starts with protagonist Kei in class as he imagines every girl and his teacher naked, resulting in a pitched tent. They make fun of him when he stands to answer a question. He is the typical “edgy” teen, who thinks he knows how the world works and the realities of life – we know this because oftentimes we listen to his internal commentary on a scene. A teen that thinks he knows everything is nothing new; however, the narrative takes him seriously. The garbage he believes is how the world works in Gantz. When a vagabond falls onto the train track, Kei says no one would save him from the train, which is utter rubbish, but this being Gantz, no one wants to help (we go into the minds of several onlookers, all making excuses not to help). Eventually, Kei’s childhood friend Kato jumps down, roping Kei into the rescue as well. They save the vagabond, but the train hits them in the process.

I need to back up a moment – this scene is so bad it exemplifies all that is wrong in Gantz. After they lift the vagabond onto the platform, they can hear the train coming in the distance. They have several minutes before the train arrives, and yet they can’t climb back onto the platform; this would be no more difficult than climbing out of a swimming pool, especially with dozens of people willing to pull them up (the onlookers pulled up the vagabond). Instead, they choose to run the length of the platform in the hope of outrunning the train’s brakes. They run for several minutes, easily enough to clear the station (or hell, just climb up!), but are still crushed by the train. My disbelief is only so flexible. I got the impression that Kei’s idiotic thoughts mirror that of the talentless creator, hence why he is “right” in this world.

After Kei’s head flies off, rather than pass on, he wakes up in a room with several strangers, also recently deceased, and a metal sphere called Gantz. He, Kato, and the others have somehow been chosen to participate in a game where they hunt aliens each night for points. Earn enough points and you revive. In the meantime, they live in a limbo-like state and death here means no third chance.

The cast largely consists of scum with a few innocents mixed in, everyone as flat as a character can be. We learn one of them is a corrupt politician, so all he does is act like a clichéd corrupt politician. A rapist yakuza goes full rapist yakuza with no variation. Kei is nothing more than an edgy, sex-obsessed teen, never revealing an ounce of depth. Oh, and the sex, bloody hell… It is so awkward, so…pointless, so pathetic. If you ever saw a censored version of Gantz, you wouldn’t know anything was cut.

The action is equally pathetic. With not a single intelligent or likeable character in the bunch, I wanted nothing more than for aliens to slaughter them all, get the show over with in three episodes. You know how every Hollywood disaster or horror film has that one idiot whose sole purpose is to put the group in jeopardy, otherwise the group would walk out unharmed because they aren’t idiots? Well, in Gantz, the whole group is that idiot multiplied. Ah yes, there is this girl – she’s on the cover – cannot remember her name, pink-haired, a main character, supposedly; she does nothing other than get licked downtown by a dog several times – no one stops it.

If Gantz had gone for comedy or parody of the gore genre, it may have had a modicum of entertainment value. The writer’s greatest mistake was taking the ridiculous dialogue and events seriously. Gantz tries to be deep as a commentary on the human condition – I have never seen a story miss the truth so much.

Art – Low

Animation layers are noticeable – characters look like Paper Mario stickers – especially during rotation shots. Foreground and background gore is inconsistent. No creativity.

Sound – Very Low

Atrocious script, which the otherwise great actors couldn’t salvage. I feel they knew the dialogue was rubbish, as they goof many lines. The ear-grating opening theme sets the tone for the terrible music.

Story – Very Low

Wants to be SAW. Fails. How? Pathetic characters, no intelligence, awkward sex, and boring violence.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Shoot on sight. Gantz has no redeemable quality, not even as a gore film. Honestly, how do you botch a gore story?

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Atrocious PlotAwful DialogueEar Grating Voice WorkHollow World BuildingHorrendous ActionInduces StupidityNo DevelopmentRepetitiveRubbish Major CharactersShallowTorture MusicUgly Artistic DesignUseless Side Cast

Orphen – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Majutsushi Orphen

 

Related: Orphen 2: Revenge (sequel)

Similar: Slayers

Scrapped Princess

Fullmetal Alchemist

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Fantasy Action Adventure Comedy

Length: 24 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Fun experience with likeable characters.
  • Many humorous moments.
  • Aged decently well.

Negatives:

  • Ending a little strange.

Orphen was the first anime I bought that had more than one DVD to it. The store had the entire series except for volume 5, and with Orphen on the way out, I couldn’t find that fifth DVD anywhere. I remember walking into an EB Games (GameStop in America) in Brisbane, over nine hundred kilometres from home, and seeing volume 5 in the bargain bin for five dollars, but it was a VHS – yes, Orphen is rather old. I didn’t care; I bought that brick and I enjoyed the hell out of it back home. And though I may have since sold the DVDs to adopt a digital library, I still have that VHS (it’s elevating my monitor to a better height, actually – probably still works too). Suffice it to say, Orphen will always be a classic to me.

This anime follows a sorcerer called Orphen on his quest to find the dragon Azalie that terrorises villages as it roams the land. The dragon seeks the powerful Sword of Baltenders, currently owned by Cleao, a spoilt, yet feisty, rich girl with a crush on Orphen’s bad boy looks and charm. Apprenticed under Orphen is Majic, a dedicated student who is probably too nice for his own good. Through an encounter against Azalie, the three end up travelling together to solve this dragon problem.

The characters and the humour keep me returning to Orphen every few years. Orphen is a former student of the Tower of Fang magic academy (they aren’t pleased at his departure) and fancies himself their greatest ever student. He’s lazy, sarcastic, and I love his attitude. The trio play well off each other, Majic as the poor guy who has to do all the work and Cleao is way out of her depth, but still brings genuine heart to Orphen’s bitter life. These three feel like real friends.

The group is pursued by two small trolls, Volkan and Dortin. They bring most of the humour to proceedings. Volkan hates Orphen because of his smug attitude and losing to him in a wager (to be fair, Orphen probably did cheat with magic). He concocts various (terrible) ideas to beat Orphen and get rich in the process, dragging his brother, Dortin, into failure every time. I laugh whenever Volkan and Dortin are on screen, brought to life superbly in the English track.

Orphen’s angle is one of fun. The dialogue is more colloquial, though not too modern, rather than “fantasy speak,” as one would expect in a European fantasy. The characters occasionally throw in smarmy phrases that didn’t existed in the medieval, which works when the series is built from the ground up to be this casual fantasy. I mean, the world has ice cream…somehow.

Orphen may not have anything spectacular to show, it may not have the depth of epic fantasy, and it may not be the most complex narrative, but it is certainly an enjoyable series. I still laugh to this day when I watch Orphen, and I doubt that will ever change.

Art – Medium

Fittingly fantasy art style, similar to Berserk, just without the naked monsters. The animation is good for its time, but lacks the high motion seen today. Still, what is animated is done well.

Sound – High

You have to watch Orphen in English. The Japanese falls short in every aspect: Majic is obviously voiced by a woman, Volkan and Dortin sound like women trying to add gravel, and the English has dozens more jokes woven into empty spaces found in the Japanese script. For example, in episode one, Orphen is accused of being lazy (which he is) and he turns to Majic for back up; Majic says Orphen is working, but adds under his breath (in English), “I don’t know what you’re working on, but you’re working,” in a grumbly, sarcastic sort of way – the Japanese has nothing in its place. It’s the small things and the right voices that make the English far superior. Good soundtrack that balances the humour and fantasy.

Story – Medium

A sorcerer and his friends hunt a dragon. Simple, yet enjoyable fantasy adventure.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Despite my overall medium rating, Orphen is easy to recommend. It is a fun experience that I have watched several times. Avoid the rubbish, repetitive sequel.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

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

Positive:

CharmHilariousPositive Recommended English Voice Track

Negative: None

Pokémon Origins – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Pocket Monsters: The Origin

 

Related: Pokémon (main series)

Pokémon: The First Movie

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Adventure

Length: 4 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Worthy tribute to the classic games.
  • Nothing like the main series.
  • Vibrant visuals and animation.
  • Modern renders of the game’s music.

Negatives:

  • A bit rushed.

I have a special loathing for the Pokémon anime series. I hate how that show squandered the premise with its repetitive nature that hasn’t gone anywhere in nearly nine hundred episodes. A proper Pokémon adventure with serious battles, serious conflict, and not the Jesse and James kind every episode, would be excellent. But no, we have to endure Ash, a character-less dweeb, as he fails endlessly at becoming a Pokémon master.

So, is Pokémon Origins the series I had been waiting for? Yes, but no. Its length, of course, limits the grand adventure I had in mind. Each episode focuses on key points in Pokémon Red & Blue, much of the adventure summarised in segments between events. If you haven’t played the games, these summaries won’t mean anything to you, as they give little context and blitz through them – Red earns two badges between episodes one and two, for example. That said, when the narrative does slow down enough for us to enjoy the details, Origins is a good anime.

We follow optimistic, yet naïve Pokémon noob Red on his quest to complete the Pokédex. (How Professor Oak, a guy with an empty Pokédex, is called the Pokémon Professor will always be beyond me.) He chooses Charmander while rival Blue (Green in Japanese to match their release. Also, not as much of a douche as Gary, though still arrogant) picks Squirtle.

My favourite element of Pokémon Origins is how close it sticks to the games. The music when he encounters a Pokémon or beats a gym leader is just like in the game, only not 8-bit. Furthermore, the Pokémon don’t say their own names, instead uttering animal noises. He receives HM01 Cut from the SS Anne captain, the bike ticket from the fan club president, and they even gamify several elements – a new game starts at the beginning and he saves at the end of each episode, Gameboy graphics and all. The only inaccuracy comes from mega evolutions. Naturally, all of this will mean nothing to those who don’t have a fondness for the games. Origins is very much a nostalgic throwback.

If you haven’t played Red or Blue, Origins is still a good introduction to the franchise, as it details the mechanics (according to the games), though does become a bit exposition heavy as a result. Don’t go on to the main series expecting quality, however.

Pokémon Origins accomplishes more in four episodes than the main series has in hundreds. If only they had created a full season, maybe several on this level.

Art – High

Much higher quality and animation than what is found in the main series – probably the best-looking Pokémon anime. The ability effects for fire, water, etc. in particular are great.

Sound – High

Better acting than the series in every way, and is good in either language (same team as Sword Art Online for English). Hearing the classic games’ music, used at the correct moments, floods me with nostalgia.

Story – Medium

A near-exact replication of the Red & Blue story from starter selection to facing Mewtwo after the championship. However, with only four episodes, most of the narrative is rushed in summaries.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: A must for fans of the games. If you haven’t played Pokémon Red or Blue (or Yellow), you are unlikely to get the full enjoyment out of Pokémon Origins.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

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

Positive:

CharmFluid Animation

Negative:

Poor Pacing

Sword Art Online – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Sword Art Online

Related: Sword Art Online 2 (sequel)

Sword Art Offline (spin-off)

 

Similar: Log Horizon

Re:Zero

Accel World

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon?

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action Adventure Fantasy Game Romance

Length: 25 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Strong concept.
  • Nice music.

Negatives:

  • Hacking protagonist.
  • Twitchy story structure.
  • World lacks creativity.
  • Abandons strong concept before long.
  • An ending that would make Bleach pitch a tent.
  • Poor exposition for vague rules in the game.

A long time ago, I watched .hack//Sign, the story of a player trapped in an MMO – cool premise – but the execution resulted in a dull disappointment. Over a decade later, I hear of Sword Art Online, a similar premise with a greater focus on action, and I was thrilled. This could be the anime I desired. Heh, how wrong was I?

Ten thousand players manage to get into the first fully immersive virtual reality MMO at launch; however, the game master traps them inside with no escape until someone clears all hundred floors. The problem? Death in the game means death in real life.

And that’s about as far as SAO gets before the quality declines. The first few episodes are decent despite the bland exposition on the game’s mechanics – an early warning. Each episode seems to bring a new fault to light. First, it’s the mechanics, then it’s the timeskips, where months pass between episodes, skipping over important events, – SAO seems desperate to reach the end – and then it’s the protagonist, Kirito. Within four episodes, thousands have died, the top guild has cleared half the floors, and Kirito is level seventy-eight. We never see how he accomplishes this feat, a feat they swore was impossible a couple of episodes ago. Instead, we have to endure some new character, usually a girl, fawning over how amazing Kirito is before either they die off or we never see them again. The cycle repeats several times. The character dynamics never go full harem, as nothing really happens with these girls, but it is pathetic.

Where is the drama and politics of the world? Everyone faces death, yet after a few episodes, this feels like a bunch of kids at a LAN party – and one of them is a hacker.

I swear to you, Kirito is a hacker. There is no other explanation for how he gains power and has so many abilities. Kirito is just another Goku pulling shit out of his arse, deus ex machina after deus ex machina when convenient. The action is filled with false tension, as it quickly becomes apparent that Kirito will hack his way to victory each time – not before someone dies first, of course. It would make too much sense for Kirito to open with his winning abilities, wouldn’t it? There’s overpowered and then there’s Kirito.

Let’s say you don’t mind an OP character (I have received dozens of such recommendation requests before), is SAO still worth it? No. Kirito is only one of a dozen problems. Not far into the series, a romance plot takes over, which is decent for itself, but comes at the cost of the main plot – the writer had not the skill to weave both. Go a few episodes further, they reach a ‘new game mode,’ shall we call it, and it is terrible. The death IRL mechanic is gone, the plot devolves into mindless action – even less engaging than before – and the new characters provide nothing of value. They rushed for this? The first part wasn’t irredeemable. I cannot fathom why they didn’t extend the first part to flesh out the characters and events. Maybe while they’re at it, show us from where Kirito gets all these super-secret-special-awesome abilities. Kirito also has these melodrama monologues that have nothing to do with anything, but at this point, it’s the least of SAO’s problems.

The ending is lame. A reset to all stats? Really? This is worse than Bleach’s power resets.

As an MMO fan, another irksome fault is the lack of an MMO feel. I had hopes at the start when they made the G.I.R.L. joke (Guy In Real Life). Alas, we don’t get much more than that. Yes, they have dungeons, bosses, equipment, levels, NPCs, yet they don’t feel as they would in a game, even a VR one. SAO seems constructed for a shounen demographic first, art second (ironic, considering the title). And how did no one make a “Can I have your stuff?” joke when someone dies?

With such a furore surrounding this anime, I expected something good, not the greatest, mind you, but certainly better than this. Look, Sword Art Online starts well, gradually decreases in quality, and I like several side characters and how the romance has progression to it; however, with the advent of the new game mode, the quality tanks to atrocious levels. The disappointment hurts.

Art – Medium

Good, clean art; however, most establishing shots, such as when entering a new town, are complete stills – frozen characters with interchangeable faces. An overall lack of creativity to world design and abilities; little in Sword Art Online is visually memorable. This is a game where they could have had anything they wanted – anything! Pick any MMO today (one that doesn’t suck) and it boasts greater creativity.

Sound – Medium

Good acting in both languages – a matter of preference. The music is likely the strongest aspect, which sounds fitting for a fantasy MMO.

Story – Very Low

Sword Art Online is the story of a writer with a great idea he had no idea how to execute and who favoured his protagonist too much. Disappointing.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Not worth your time unless you have a desire for mindless entertainment. I cannot think of an anime that squandered its premise more than Sword Art Online – that honour used to belong to .hack//Sign, interestingly enough.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Deus Ex MachinaDissapointingHollow World BuildingHorrendous ActionMary SueMisleadingPoor Pacing