Tag Archives: Nudity

Contains partial or prominent nudity. Not explicitly graphic.

Moonlight Mile – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Moonlight Mile: Lift Off

 

Similar: Space Brothers

Planetes

Armageddon (Hollywood movie)

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Adventure Drama

Length: 26 episodes (2 seasons)

 

Positives:

  • Science and engineering detail.
  • Some tense dilemmas.

Negatives:

  • Disjointed storytelling.
  • Characters don’t have time to develop amidst the dilemmas.
  • Junk animation and CG.

(Request an anime for review here.)

What made me curious to watch this anime? Was it a) space, b) the engineering, c) premise, or d) sex? The answer is a), of course – I love space! Alright, I admit, it was the sex, okay. Happy? But no, in all seriousness, when I was at the Kyoto International Manga Museum, they had an exhibition spotlighting civil engineering in manga – infrastructure, architecture, development, etc. – as the Japanese take great pride in their civil engineers (when you watch them build a house in a day, you can see why [turn on captions for subtitles]). I picked up Moonlight Mile because it had an astronaut on the cover (I am serious about the loving space part), but was struck by how sexually graphic the opening scene was. If I hadn’t seen the cover first, I would have assumed this belonged in the section you wouldn’t mention to your parents. This scene is so graphic that I was curious if they got away with it in the anime adaptation. Spoiler: they don’t.

But first, the story. Two climbing buddies, Gorou from Japan and Jack “Lostman” Woodbridge from the US, make a pact atop Mount Everest to see each other in space as they look to the sky above. They soon part and set about achieving this goal in their own manner. Gorou takes the path of an engineer, while Lostman goes the air force route (two-thirds of US astronauts come from the military). Becoming an astronaut is no easy journey and each will face trials and setbacks, even more so than real astronauts, for Moonlight Mile loves to throw one disaster after another at the protagonists.

Now, you know me, I love conflict – it’s the engine of fiction – but there comes a point where you need to allow characters to grow. In fiction, scenes follow the rough pattern of action and reaction. Something happens in a scene (action) and the characters react/reflect on this action in the next scene (reaction). Moonlight Mile rarely stops for the reaction. All space movies have those disasters – oxygen leak, broken thruster, power failure, etc. – for the astronauts to solve. These moments are exciting edge-of-your-seat tense, yet if you have nothing but this, as Moonlight Mile does, the tension wanes. The characters, while decent, feel like mere nuts and bolts to this story, rather than driving agents.

The first episode is nothing but a disastrous climb up Everest to establish the characters. This should have taken a few minutes. Well, there is Gorou’s butt as well.

As for my initial curiosity, while most episodes have a sex scene, it isn’t graphic. Still certainly not for kids, though is a far cry from the manga. It also doesn’t add to character, for Gorou falls in love with a new girl faster than a shooting star. This wouldn’t be an issue if he grew from each relationship. Alas, a new girl means a clean slate of development, so what’s the point?

In regards to the engineering, Moonlight Mile succeeds in taking care to do the math and science in a disaster. I’m not a rocket scientist, so someone more qualified may find great flaws here, but Moonlight Mile doesn’t try to convince us that training oil drillers to become astronauts is easier than training astronauts to operate a drill.

Art – Low

The 2D animation is junk, whereas the 3D sees overuse for vehicles and sweeping shots. Even the ground is CG in these scenes – so distracting.

Sound – Medium

The Japanese script is a bit dry, so go with the English, which added more banter and a natural flow to the dialogue.

Story – Medium

Two friends and rivals vow to meet each other as astronauts in space. This is their journeys to meet that goal. Moonlight Mile suffocates its characters in disaster after disaster for them to resolve, giving little room to develop. At least the disasters are tense.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For space fans. Did you like Armageddon? If yes, then Moonlight Mile is the anime version. If you thought that movie needed better science, Moonlight Mile will also satisfy in that regard.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Ugly Artistic Design

Revolutionary Girl Utena – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Shoujo Kakumei Utena

 

Related: Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Adolescence of Utena (alternate version)

Similar: Penguindrum

Kill la Kill

Rose of Versailles

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Fantasy Drama

Length: 39 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Good imagery and world design.
  • Silhouette sisters.
  • The comedy episodes.

Negatives:

  • Overused sequences.
  • Black Rose arc.
  • The villains and their metaphors.
  • The Rose Bride is boring.
  • Too much recap.

(Request an anime for review here.)

I am hesitant to include Rose of Versailles in the ‘Similar’ section above, for it gives false expectations of Revolutionary Girl Utena. I expected Versailles in high school, but really, they share little beyond having tomboy protagonists. I am opposed to you having the same initial expectations that I had.

Revolutionary Girl Utena is a difficult anime to summarise. Not because the blurb is difficult – a tomboy called Utena fights off challengers in duels to protect the Rose Bride – rather, the blurb doesn’t convey what this anime is truly about. The story is a psychological exploration of characters through metaphors – the duels are irrelevant, for the most part, as is the Rose Bride and her ultimate purpose. This is about adolescence and the exploration of the many changes it brings to the young self.

Utena’s initial conflict revolves around her boyish dress sense (not that it should matter when the boys are more feminine than the girls) before she wins a duel against the current “owner” of the Rose Bride, a girl that gives the power to “revolutionise the world” and is unimaginably boring. After this, every day seems to bring a new challenger intent on owning the bride and her power. Here, we see one of Revolutionary Girl’s biggest problems – repetition.

Most episodes in the first two arcs go like the following: episode’s focus character has a desire taken by someone else, gets envious, the dark side seduces, convinces that getting the Rose Bride will fulfil the desire, the focus character challenges Utena, who climbs the duel tower for several minutes, they fight, and Utena wins. The stair climb looks and sounds epic and is better than any transformation sequence, but grows old after its second use out of thirty. The Black Rose Arc (two of four) is particularly egregious.

Furthermore, the duels have bad camerawork and worse choreography. None of the storyboard directors on staff knew how to do action, as evidenced by their credits. On top of using the cliché ‘two swordsmasters dash past each other, pause, one falls’ to end most duels, we never see any real fencing skill. The duels’ one strength is the setting and atmosphere, though sometimes it gets goofy. The goofiest fight has the challenger’s number one fangirl skiing (driving on two side wheels) around the arena in a convertible as more convertibles litter the area like trees. Does it mean anything? Not really – still amusing.

Episodes focused on the school diva break up this repetition with hilarious comedy, which is refreshing. She has a serious brother complex and can’t stand the idea of anyone getting his attention (little does she know…). One episode has this narcissist slowly transform into cow after wearing a cowbell she mistakes for designer jewellery. Another involves fighting a literal boxing kangaroo. I didn’t see that coming.

After the initial setup, the story doesn’t have much progression until the second half when the villains start doing something. Before then, every side character must have all of their angst laid bare, regardless of whether it’s relevant to the plot or not.

Hmm, these villains… Revolutionary Girl Utena leans on metaphor like Florida Man leans on his crutches after having his feet eaten by alligators when streaking. While half the symbolism works, the other half is symbolism for the sake of symbolism that makes no sense, which seems to be the corny villains’ primary purpose. The two main villains talk metaphorically at length while posing for a fan service softcore shoot together. At the opposite end, three women I refer to as the ‘silhouette sisters’ have a scene most episodes that twists moments from famous plays and tales to fit the narrative. Their metaphors are short, tight, and work even if you don’t get the reference.

Much of the symbolism tries to make you think deep thoughts (it’s sex), trying to be clever (it’s sex) at the expense of continuity and character consistency (hint: it means sex). The more obscure the sex symbolism, the worse the result unless it hits the spot. The silhouette sister work with their metaphors because they establish themselves as being a quirky Greek chorus of metaphors, consistent throughout the series. Others, like the villains, enter as one thing and exit as something unrelated for the sake of being artsy. And it doesn’t help that their metaphors are nonsensical, included to be artificially profound. If the writer weren’t possessed by allegory, he could have let the silhouette sisters carry the metaphors alone. They are superior in every way, from presentation to delivery.

Revolutionary Girl Utena has great depth half the time and total nonsense for the other half. Thankfully, the good outweighs the bad and is worth your time. I love the world design (wish we explored more of it), the silhouette sisters are a delight, and Utena is a great character.

A quick note on the movie, The Adolescence of Utena – it’s terrible. The spectacular environments and a personality for the Rose Bride cannot make up for the loss of all subtlety and a finale where Utena morphs into a racecar, participating in a race out of Redline. This ludicrous display must be seen to be believed.

Art – High

Utena has a good amount of motion for cel-drawn anime and an imaginative world. Everything is grand, designed to inspire awe and give the feel of Olympus.

Sound – Medium

The Japanese audio sounds dated and several actors need more training, while the English is weak in weight and delivery for all save a couple of characters – perfectly watchable though. The speed of speech is notably slow at times to match animation. I imagine the voice director often asked for slower retakes. The choral rock gets you pumped (shame it’s for lame duels).

Story – Medium

Tomboy Utena fights off challengers in duels to defend the Rose Bride from those who would use her power for unsavoury goals. Half great and half terrible, the metaphor-laden Revolutionary Girl Utena offers an intriguing anime in an unusual world.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: For fans of heavy metaphor and allegory. Revolutionary Girl Utena is better than the sum of its parts, but requires your patience to hit its stride and reveal its strengths.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Repetitive

Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Mnemosyne: Mnemosyne no Musume-tachi

 

Similar: Darker than Black

Baccano!

Elfen Lied

The Garden of Sinners

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Action Horror Science Fiction

Length: 6 episodes (45 min. each)

 

Positives:

  • Doesn’t hold back.
  • Story spanning multiple decades.
  • Strong world building.

Negatives:

  • Not enough psychological conflict.
  • First act of most episodes.
  • Main villain has no presence.

(Request an anime for review here.)

One of the reasons I do little research on a title before I watch it is to go in as blind as possible. Sometimes, this method delivers shocking results. I did not expect Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne to be this graphic. And I’m not referring to the amount of violence and sex, but rather the manner in which the story executes these elements. Mnemosyne does not hold back when it comes to adult content. You have been warned.

Mnemosyne centres on Rin, an immortal woman fed a time fruit from the invisible tree Yggdrassil, who runs a private investigation agency alongside partner Mimi. Their job takes a turn when a search for a lost cat leads to amnesiac Koki and someone murdering these immortal women.

Most interesting in Mnemosyne is the structure, in that each episode takes place in a different decade. We start in the 90s and hop through the decades, seeing how society changes each instance, with the latter episodes set beyond our time and in the genre of science fiction. As such, the world building leaps forward each era – new global events in the background, technological advancements, aging mortals, etc. I particularly like how after a devastating earthquake, Tokyo’s depressed population retreats into a virtual reality of human indulgence. The people are so taken by the virtual that the real world is designated ‘Version 1.0’ – a launch version of the program, if you will. These are good world building details.

While the world evolves well across the years, I cannot say the same for the characters. Now, these characters aren’t bad, not at all. A core of the story is about how the immortal women don’t change while their mortal acquaintances die around them. Unfortunately, Rin and co. don’t react much to these changes. How much more interesting would it be to see a psychological toll for having such an existence? Or perhaps how they stay sane? Ironically, despite all the brutality, the story doesn’t push its characters far enough in the neglected psychological component.

The physical themes of sex and violence – two basic human instincts – have impact, certainly. The two sometimes (often) mix into some extreme form of BDSM – torture, mutilation, eroticism, bits missing, naked bodies, the full monty. The blood angels hunting Rin lure immortal women with the human instinct of lust, granting a state of ecstasy before devouring them. Mnemosyne is bold with its sexuality and not ashamed of it. Interestingly, none of this is gratuitous. Yes, they could have cut away before the graphic material starts and dropped down to a lower age rating tier, but the violence and sex drive the plot and characters of this supernatural world. These elements and the plot type give this anime a vampire fiction-esque feel.

Mnemosyne’s story problems lie in the first act of most episodes. The writing needs work in linking Rin with the key character introduced each episode. For example, in the first episode, after leaving the scene of a truck accident, she runs into Koki and helps, responds, and acts towards this stranger as though he’s a close friend. Her actions aren’t believable – nor is his response. The writers needed to get these two together and didn’t think of a proper way to do it. This happens consistently. Funny enough, each episode consistently improves in the same way after the first act as well. Flawed, but consistent. How odd.

Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne is so close to being great. Its good points have strength, but the weak parts are significant enough to hold it back. The characters needed that extra emotional push, and a main villain with more presence than minor antagonists would have assuredly helped. Even so, this anime engaged me to the end.

Art – Medium

The art is good – strong imagery – but could do with more animation and a touch more gothic. And get rid of the Photoshop filter used in flashbacks – looks cheap.

Sound – High

Mnemosyne has great acting in both versions and music that evolves with the times.

Story – Medium

In a world of sex and violence, the immortal Rin investigates attacks against her fellow immortal women through the ages. While engaging (and brutal), Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne doesn’t give the emotional side enough focus to match the physical.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne is hard to find an audience for with the extreme sadism, but if you don’t mind that, it’s worth a try. Give it two episodes at least.

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

Positive:

Holy S***

Negative: None

Tokyo Ghoul – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Tokyo Ghoul

 

Related: Tokyo Ghoul √A (sequel – included in review)

Similar: Shiki

Parasyte -the maxim-

Attack on Titan

Ajin

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Psychological Horror Action Drama

Length: 12 episodes (season 1), 12 episodes (season 2), 2 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Fantastic hook.
  • Great performances across the board.
  • Quality art and music.

Negatives:

  • Nosedives after a few episodes.
  • Little but action in second season.
  • Pathetic protagonist.
  • More ideas than story.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Tokyo is a city of fear with flesh hungry ‘ghouls’ masquerading as ordinary humans ready to eat unsuspecting citizens at first opportunity. A ghoul attacks Kaneki, the guy with the worst luck in love, but before she can finish him, an accident kills her and injures him. Doctors transplant her (unknowingly) ghoulish organs into him to save his life. He reawakens half-ghoul, half-human and loses his taste for normal food. An unfortunate need for love and affection has changed his life forever. (I knew there was something wrong when the woman looked older than claimed – a first in anime.)

Kaneki must not only cope with his hunger for flesh, but also the imprint of the ghoul Rize in his mind. After failing to kill himself, he reluctantly ventures into ghoul society where a café owner and a waitress, Touka, guide him in his new life as he tries to cling to his old, human life. To further layer this misfortune, Tokyo’s ghoul hunting branch has turned its attention to the 20th ward where they live.

What a great start. It gives us the premise, journey setup, conflict, and hook without missing a beat. The idea of a civilised ghoul society among the savages also brims with promise, and we get glimpses at detailed world building, such as ghouls’ ability to enjoy coffee or some ghouls eating human food to blend in, throwing it up later in secret. My favourite element is how “good” ghouls only eat suicide victims, thus keeping murder off the menu.

However – and I’m sure you know what’s coming next – it’s a shame this setup goes nowhere. Where do I start with this travesty? Right, Kaneki. He starts out as the weak bookish type, as is typical of the genre and perfectly fine, but he stays weak for almost the entire season. Only the hidden power (sprouting energy-like flesh limbs) of his ghoul half makes him stronger, which isn’t real strength for it takes no effort on his part. He doesn’t grow as a person. In Tokyo Ghoul √A (read: Root A), he gets stronger at the cost of having as much personality as a plank of imitation wood.

Kaneki may just be the most irrelevant protagonist I’ve ever seen. His friend/crush Touka’s story arc should have been his. Or merge the two into one, giving her his origin story while keeping her backstory and familial conflict. She would make for a far better protagonist.

Next, we have the unused elements. Kaneki soon wants to resume normal life at uni with his friend. A ghoul trying to be friends with a human should be interesting, yes? Well, they introduce the idea and do nothing with it. Furthermore, the friend’s uni roommate is a ghoul who has passed for human all this time and he uses the friend to hurt Kaneki. This conflict lasts an episode. What’s the point of presenting it at all?

Then there’s the villains, who almost all fall in the realm of ‘crazy for the sake of crazy’ instead of a personality and depth. Crazy, sure, yet they’re still one-dimensional. This type is starting to become one of my most hated character builds. Other than modelling one villain after Jason Voorhees with the hockey mask, I barely remember these characters. The human villains have a touch of depth, though with their purpose relegated to action scenes any depth is wasted.

Beyond the great setup, the only good story is in side plots, usually focused on other ghouls coping (or not) with their condition. But as these side plots don’t affect Kaneki, they don’t really matter in the end. In fact, they impact him so little that they shunt him out of the story for the duration. Yeah, he stops being protagonist for extended periods (should have stayed that way).

I wrote my review for Beck before this and noted how that anime starts dull but keeps getting better. Tokyo Ghoul does the reverse. It starts strong with its vampire fiction type world and premise and then keeps getting worse – Root A feels like the dullest action scenes lasting twelve episodes. Tokyo Ghoul is more of an idea for a world than a story.

Art – High

I love the high contrast coupled with a vibrant palette. The art drew me to watch Tokyo Ghoul initially.

Sound – High

The actors give performances far above what this anime deserves. The protagonist in particular shows good range, shifting between the human and ghoul states. I don’t know how they didn’t make more use of this duality. Good music.

Story – Medium

Once human, now half ghoul, a uni student tries to cope with his hunger for human flesh as he navigates the supernatural world within Tokyo. It has been a while since I have been this disappointed after such a strong start. Though never terrible, Tokyo Ghoul bores one’s tears ducts dry.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Don’t bother. Watching Tokyo Ghoul can only lead to sheer disappointment.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

DissapointingHollow World BuildingNo Development

Happy Lesson TV – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Happy☆Lesson (TV)


Related:
Happy Lesson: Advance (sequel – included in review)

Happy Lesson: The Final (conclusion – included in review)

Happy Lesson OVA (alternative version)

Similar: Love Hina

Please Teacher

Sister Princess


Watched in:
Japanese & English

Genre: Harem Comedy Slice of Life

Length: 13 episodes (TV), 1 OVA, 13 episodes (Advance), 3 episodes (The Final)


Positives:

  • Tries something different for a harem, I suppose.

Negatives:

  • The conflict is weak, the humour flat.
  • No goal.
  • The end undermines the series.
  • Weak acting and atrocious dub.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Chitose lived alone until his five female teachers decided to move in and become his ‘mothers.’ Well, it’s different from the typical five horny teen girls moving in with a guy (or is it?). The conflict is all about each teacher competing to see who is the best mother and most affectionate, without regard for his life or needs. These contests aren’t funny and mighty predictable – no matter the contest, the teachers tackle it in the same way to the same jokes.

Each teacher boils down to a “quirk” – the aggro sports teacher, cosplaying art teacher, dangerous experiments science teacher, kind literature teacher, and the school nurse who’s also a priestess. The characters being one-note isn’t different from other harem.

For a moment, I thought there would be something interesting in Happy Lesson when two realtors discover the promiscuous relationship and blackmail Chitose into selling the house. At least they acknowledge the impropriety, I thought! Alas, the only characters who question the situation are treated as villains or wrong for having qualms about five adults randomly living with a high school kid. This would be fine if it were funny – you can get away with anything as long as it’s funny. It isn’t.

The strangest detail is that Chitose isn’t even alone. He has two sisters! One is little (have to fill the Loli fetish somewhere) and the other is an adult popstar. Why aren’t they together? Sure, they bring up this point, but it becomes nothing more than another contest for the mothers – sisters included this time.

What’s the point of Happy Lesson? Where’s the purpose? Even weak harems have a goal – get the girl, get all the girls, or fix every girls’ problems. Happy Lesson is about the teachers wanting to be his mothers…when they are already his mothers…what? It’s more slice of life with no actual purpose, perhaps? No, they don’t have mild problems to solve either. All conflict is artificial, created by any given character, such as the mothers competing to be best mother by doing their own thing. Their ‘own thing’ is the unique skillset they bring to the family anyway – so why compete? The biggest conflict is the older sister wanting to give up singing, which is so sudden, so poorly conveyed that it lacks realism.

At least it is never about these teachers/mothers trying to bang him.

Wait, scratch that.

At least it is never about these teachers/mothers trying to bang him. One teacher gets sexual with him, competing with a school friend of his (seven women on the harem count, by the way), and unlike Please Teacher, the story does a poor job of it. It’s weird in how sudden, how empty this relationship is. What was the point? In the final scene, all the teachers/mothers want to marry him suddenly. Who wrote this rubbish? Furthermore, the “orgy” ending undermines the family values messages they were trying to convey in earlier seasons.

By the end, I only had one question left: why would all these women be interested in this kid? If my son were so bland, I would hari-kari myself in shame at having birthed such a useless being.

Art – Very Low

All characters suffer from ‘dead eyes’ syndrome – flat, no depth – and have bad designs with little animation. The colouring is bad as well.

Sound – Low

A bad script with weak acting is amazingly outdone by the atrocious dub, where they can’t even pronounce the protagonist’s name. Did they not watch a minute of the Japanese beforehand? Most performances sound like a fan dub, as though friends of the director rather than professionals did the work.

Story – Very Low

A [not] lonely student lives with his five female teachers who act as his mothers. What starts as a harmless, albeit boring, comedy goes full retard in the final season when it does the worst genre of anime proud.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Avoid it. Even if you stop before the final season, earlier episodes of Happy Lesson have nothing to recommend themselves but repetitive jokes and boredom.

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


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

Positive: None

Negative:

Atrocious PlotEar Grating Voice WorkInduces StupidityRubbish Major CharactersUgly Artistic Design