Tag Archives: Revenge

The core plot is about a quest for revenge.

Terror in Resonance – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Zankyou no Terror

 

Similar: Death Note

Psycho-Pass

Monster

Eden of the East

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Length: 11 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Compelling premise.
  • Love the soundtrack.
  • Tackles some concepts rarely covered.

Negatives:

  • Muddled motivations and actions.
  • Main antagonist is garbage.
  • “Geniuses.”
  • Riddles solved easily.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Why would you do this to me? Why would you set up so well, promise so much and then tear it away? You are tearing me apart, Lisa Terror in Resonance!

A terrorist bombing leaves Tokyo in shock, for the only clue the police have is an internet video of two masked people calling themselves ‘Sphinx,’ presenting a riddle on the whereabouts of the next bomb. Plutonium also went missing from a nuclear facility six months ago. Lisa witnesses two teenage boys, Nine and Twelve, from her school planting toys stuffed with explosives. They give her a choice: become an accomplice or die. Thinking her life unable to get any worse than it already is, she joins them.

So, teenagers as terrorists – that’s interesting. An emo girl roped into the operation – could be good. Shame it isn’t. The worst is that Terror in Resonance seems good as your watching it, but in the latter half when they reveal the secrets and motivations, it retroactively contaminates elements that seemed solid.

Most notably is the motivation behind these edgy teens. I won’t give anything away, but it’s imbecilic. A thousand ways come to mind that are better at changing the world for the better than random bombings. To give an analogy, imagine someone killing puppies. You guess he’s evil. But, ah, yes, it’s because these puppies are being tortured and killing them is mercy. That makes sense. Wait, you think, why not free them? Well, they can’t survive without anyone to care for them, so it’s better they die now than starve in the cold. That makes sen—why not give them to somebody? Surely, there must be other avenues to try before euthanasia. Terror in Resonance doesn’t even ask these questions. It goes straight to the nuclear option, made worse when you’re told these kids are geniuses.

That’s another thing – the “intelligence” of characters and strategies is idiotic. Take the first riddle (‘Sphinx’ motif at play). It’s easy to solve with a quick Google search (or Yahoo, as is popular in Japan) and I’ve heard it before. Yet the detective in charge never thinks of that.

Later, they introduce Five, a “genius” girl working for the FBI, to catch Nine and Twelve. If the quirky naming scheme wasn’t obvious enough, Resonance wants to be Death Note. Nothing wrong with that. But to draw inspiration from another piece, one must understand said piece, particularly what made it succeed. The Resonance writer seems to think that throwing random crazy and nonsensical mental duels at the story was Death Note’s secret.

She has edge and crazy instead of character. Yes, L was an oddball in Death Note, but that’s on top of his depth. Five’s motivations make no sense, as every move she chooses puts her further from the objective of recovering the plutonium. One duel has Five face the boys in a shopping centre. Her team has eyes everywhere, while the boys must navigate the surveillance in a grid like a chessboard. It’s nonsense. Especially once you realise no one needs to play this convoluted game. I assume the writer thought the scene needed some hook, some quirk to draw the audience and forced in the cliché chess angle.

I almost forgot Lisa – as the plot did (ba-dum tss). Each episode, I kept wondering about her purpose to the story, as the camera occasionally cut to her moping in the hideout or around town. She has none. She leapt at Twelve’s invitation, yet is unwilling to partake in the bombings. Resonance’s main theme is cycle of abuse and if one would break the cycle when given power of one’s abuser. She’s a concentrated proxy of this cycle, but with so little personality and impact, her metaphorical role amounts to nothing, like all edgelords. Cut her from the story!

The writer muddled the message by trying to make everything more complicated than necessary. It didn’t need all the Death Note touches – should have been itself. These kids want to change the world through extreme means; however, their actions are confusing. So many better decisions could have had higher efficacy. Terror in Resonance’s art, music, and concepts are better than the story itself.

Art – High

Terror in Resonance has nice clean art and animation, rarely relying on static shots. Colours pop.

Sound – Very High

I love the soundtrack, from the ethereal OP and ED (I hated skipping them twice when pressed for time) to the instrumental background music. With Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Wolf’s Rain) on the music, her international folio delivers, including Indian Tabla – a rarity in anime – for tension. The dub is better than the original, as the American characters don’t speak Engrish and it matched voices better. Original is still good, overall.

Story – Medium

A terrorist attack on Tokyo leaves little clues outside an internet video with a riddle warning of another bomb. Sadly, a need for edge and desire to be Death Note fails to deliver on the premise.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. I debated extensively on whether to go for a high or medium rating, but the faults dampen the end feeling. I recommend Terror in Resonance on the merits of its visuals, audio, and the concepts it tackles, in spite of its story stumbles.

(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:

Great MusicPositive Recommended English Voice Track

Negative:

DissapointingUseless Side CastWeak End

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Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan – Tsuiokuhen

 

Related: Rurouni Kenshin (main series)

Similar: Basilisk

Ninja Scroll

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Samurai Action Drama Romance

Length: 4 episodes

 

Positives:

  • The right type of tragic backstory.
  • Surprising turns.
  • Improved technicals compared to series.

Negatives:

  • Missing a poetic detail from the manga.
  • Tomoe doesn’t have enough of her own story.

I made my disappointment for Rurouni Kenshin clear in my review, finding the ‘neutered for children’ approach to be a ruination of the good manga. The series also removed the best part of Kenshin’s tale, his backstory. Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal is that backstory told over four episodes.

In the lead up to the Japanese revolution, a swordsmaster rescues a slave child from bandits. That child is Kenshin, who, after training under the swordsmaster, would play a pivotal role in the Meiji restoration of Japan. Trust and Betrayal details Kenshin’s bloody legacy and the price it exacts from his soul. One night, he meets Tomoe, a mysterious woman who sees beyond his assassin’s visage. However, his actions have already set in motion a fate that cannot be avoided without a price.

Rurouni Kenshin failed in large part for forgetting who Kenshin was, what atrocities he committed, in the series’ efforts to protect the children. Trust and Betrayal remedies that error by delving deep into Kenshin’s character. It doesn’t hide why he kills as many people as he does; it doesn’t pretend that his actions are pleasant; it doesn’t pretend that he can merely walk away unscathed from it all. An honesty of character is never a bad thing.

Trust and Betrayal does falter in two parts. First, Tomoe doesn’t have enough time for her own story. Not knowing her importance, one would assume that she is a minor character based on her screen time. Where Kenshin is dissected to his core, Tomoe is left unexplored. I understand she is supposed to be mysterious, but even after the conclusion, too little comes to light. Second flaw: they removed a minor detail from the finale that who have compounded the finale’s impact.

Rurouni Kenshin the manga was a seemingly light-hearted samurai story that hid darkness within. The anime was all that darkness removed; Trust and betrayal is the darkest point realised. I wish for a full Rurouni Kenshin adaptation in this style.

Art – High

The mature style suits the narrative better than the childish version from the series ever could. The art reminds me of classical Japanese still-life paints, like the one of the cranes in Kenshin’s house. Good cinematography and animation. Could do without the epilepsy flashing for action, which was all the rage in that era.

Sound – High

Though the cast is the same in Japanese (where common in characters), the acting is much better – not having Kenshin sound like he’s gargling bubble bath helps. The English, too, is better, void of the irritating mannerisms. Music has more impact.

Story – High

The legend of an assassin who would kill hundreds and the consequences of his actions. Kenshin the Manslayer’s origin story. A tragic story soaked in blood. Great, but could have gone deeper.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Even if you have no desire to watch the main series, Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal is worth your time. If only Rurouni Kenshin had this level of quality.

(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: 

Extensive Character DevelopmentStrong Lead Characters

Negative: None

Naruto – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Naruto

 

Related: Naruto Shippuden (sequel)

Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow (side story)

Naruto the Movie 2: Legend of the Stone of Gelel (side story)

Naruto the Movie 3: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom (side story)

Similar: One Piece

Hunter x Hunter

Basilisk

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Super Power Action Adventure

Length: 220 episodes (~80 filler episodes)

 

Positives:

  • Many awesome fights.
  • Creative abilities and powers.
  • Lasting consequences.
  • Great villains.
  • Episode 101.

Negatives:

  • Takes a few episodes.
  • Naruto isn’t the most interesting protagonist.
  • Explaining the obvious at times.
  • Flashbacks and filler, though most filler comes after the canon episodes.
  • Relies on the inferior sequel, Shippuden, to complete a few arcs.

Audiences have a love-hate relationship with long running battle shounen. The gargantuan episode count can be reason enough not to give them a shot. In my experience, fans of long running anime often got into the series from the ground level when the episodes were still in double digits and not nearing a millennial celebration. Unfortunately, being there year-one and having a series be a part of your life for a decade or more does lead to a skewed perception of the show’s quality. So, when tackling Naruto classic, my year-one battle shounen, I kept in mind the best anime I have seen since – having not seen Naruto in seven years also helped gain distance.

Naruto centres on young ninja Naruto and his quest to become Hokage, the highest rank in ninjadom. Naruto has a demon fox trapped within, desperate to break free and destroy everything, as it did to the village years ago. He is a pariah in society and uses humour for defence. As part of a three-man squad with Sasuke, the last of an elite clan, and Sakura, whose large forehead is her tragic backstory [sarcasm], they carry out dangerous missions under the guidance of Kakashi, their teacher who has no cares to give.

My first issue is the protagonist himself, Naruto, a problem that applies to most shounen protagonists. I hate how the protagonist is always happy-go-lucky, the “goodest” of the good guys, and thus an uninteresting protagonist. Shounen writers choose these protagonists because they are the least likely to alienate a young audience. Imagine if the protagonist were Gaara instead, a Sand ninja with a similar backstory, who turned out a remorseless killer instead of a prankster – many kids would be terrified and leave before they get to see his full arc. That’s not to say a happy protagonist can’t be challenged through conflict, but in Naruto’s case, his conflict is weak and the pariah status lasts a few episodes at most.

This leads onto my next point – backstory. The writer dumps a hero’s entire backstory into our laps at the first possible instant (usually their first major fight). Just one big dollop mid-fight. A writer should hold back details until the audience is at breaking point, and then reveal something amazing. Naruto’s heroes have little such mystery. Even Sasuke, whose backstory is the most interesting among heroes, is more about his brother, a villain.

Look to the villains and we find the opposite. Their backstory is held in reserve until it can no longer be hidden, making us acutely interested in them as characters. Orochimaru, for example, the main villain and major reason to watch this, doesn’t have his life story narrated to us the first time he fights, as seen with most of the young ninja. His power-hungry past builds him up to be a phenomenal villain, one piece at a time. When you think he can’t be anymore evil, another piece is unveiled to make him even more nefarious, and another, and another.

All shounens have a huge cast, often of filler characters; thankfully, however, a memorable support crew supplements Naruto’s weak protagonist. Many seemingly irrelevant side characters have great story arcs. There are too many to detail, so I will focus on the best and my favourite among them, Rock Lee, the mop-topped and bushy-browed ninja in the springtime of youth. He is a ninja without powers; he can’t use any ‘spells,’ so to speak, relying on hand-to-hand combat. Lee should have been the protagonist. He still fits the criteria for a shounen protagonist: A go-getter, hardworking underdog, and with a quirky, fun slant to him. He succeeds where Naruto fails because the writer went all-out with Lee. His hard work is genuine, while the demon fox does most of the work for Naruto. Lee’s underdog status will never vanish because of his no-spells weakness, whereas Naruto is no longer an underdog after a single arc, even if the writers try to say otherwise – again, the demon fox. When battles matter above all, having the weakness be a combat one is the most interesting. Lastly, Lee’s humour is far better; Naruto is simply juvenile, a brat most of the time, but Lee’s quirks come from his passion, his innate mannerisms, which never feels forced.

Lee’s fights are excellent, some of the best in anime. Naruto in general has great fights, varied too (strategic, all in the mind, brute strength, or trump card types), but Lee takes it to a whole new level. Abilities in Naruto have a lot of thought put into them, each character bringing some cool power, but there is something about Lee’s style, distilled down to its essence, matched to his personality, that makes him so engaging. His conflict, his challenges aren’t only more significant, but also more relatable. They made a big mistake not choosing Lee instead of Naruto.

Like all battle anime, Naruto has its share of padding and filler. Naruto’s go to driving sock is the flashback. A handful of flashbacks, most from season one, are repeated, I swear, at least ten times throughout the series. We have a recap in episode 14; they couldn’t even wait a season. Sometimes we flashback to last episode…twice…in one episode. Desk, meet Face. They like to state the obvious when explaining abilities at times as well – do shounen writers think their viewers are retards?

Naruto doesn’t have it as bad as the likes of Bleach and co. Naruto’s filler is mercifully back-loaded after the canon, with only a half-dozen filler episodes during canon, most of them actually good. One must wait until Naruto Shippuden to have one’s mind drilled through their eyeballs in pain, which leads me to my final negative. A few story arcs conclude in the sequel, a shounen padded and dragged out as bad as any other.

We know filler is born from a need to have an episode everyday while giving the manga time to get ahead, but when releasing on disc later, they should trim all the TV fat. Get rid of these flashbacks, burn the filler, and stop opening with the final scene from last episode. A master edit for Naruto would be fantastic.

Naruto is, ultimately, a good anime weighed down by the trapping that burden the battle genre. If Naruto were never intended for morning TV, it could have had a faster pace, a more engaging protagonist, and more respect for the audience. However, as is, Naruto is still worth watching if you want a good battle anime and are willing to skip the padding yourself.

Art – Medium

Good visual design for the most part, particularly in abilities; however, the animation is inconsistent. In Lee’s fights, the animation is excellent, fast, fluid, precise, but where Naruto is involved, expect plenty of static. Naruto’s signature move being a hundred clones means the time and budget for a 1v1 fight is now spread for a 100v1 fight. Most clones are frozen in the background and those that do move, slide rather than run. Also, bright orange for a ninja?

Sound – High

Naruto’s soundtrack goes far beyond the morning cartoon. The hype tracks truly build hype, the perfect instrumental piece accompanies tragedy, and the villains walk to their own sinister church organs. Voice acting in Japanese is another standout. The dub, however…yeah…Naruto’s voice, he sounds like a chain smoker and that “Believe it!” rubbish (they cut it after season one – what mercy!). The dub is hit and miss for such a large cast. Some, like Orochimaru (Steve Blum), the performance I would have guessed as most difficult to match, are perfect.

Story – Medium

Teen ninjas fight for their village. Cool powers, great supporting cast, Lee, nefarious villains, and engaging battles, all bogged down by shounen padding.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Good shounen to start with. The overall high quality is predicated on you skipping the filler (for a simple guide, stop at episode 140). It is a medium quality otherwise.

(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:

Great MusicHoly S***Phenomenal VillainRiveting ActionStrong Support Characters

Negative:

Terrible Start

Gungrave – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Gungrave

 

Related: Gungrave (video game basis)

Similar: Berserk

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom

Texhnolyze

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Mafia Drama Action Science Fiction

Length: 26 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Deep characters and development.
  • Stylish, fast-paced action.
  • Brutal drama.
  • Top tier acting for the well-characterised dialogue.
  • Less is more.

Negatives:

  • The action focused final third could not live up to the preceding drama.

Before I begin the review, you must know of the two ways to watch Gungrave, depending on what type of story you prefer. If you start at episode one, you will witness a flash-forward before the plot rewinds to the beginning. Or, you can begin at episode two and have no idea of what is yet to come. With the first method, you will be wondering how things went so wrong; with the second method, you won’t know what goes wrong. It is up to your preference. Both are equally great, though I will write this review on the assumption that you skip episode one to avoid spoiling for method two. (All trailers spoil too much, so I settled for the opening above.)

After the murder of their friends by a rival gang, street punks Brandon and Harry join the largest crime syndicate, Millennion. Brandon seeks to get closer to Maria, the Godfather’s ward, while Harry wishes to make something of himself. Brandon is quiet, disciplined – the muscle – and loyal to a fault. He barely talks, but he projects tons of character in his manner, in the tone of his expression. Harry, on the other hand, is a leader, too charismatic for his own good, a smooth talker of great ambition and intellect.

Gungrave is the story of how these two friends climb the mafia ranks, putting character, morals, and love on the line. Gungrave’s roots in gangster films are obvious – the notion of ‘loyalty to the family’ is a recurring theme throughout. It is a blend of Scarface and The Godfather with a touch of science fiction (only anime would take such down-to-earth films and add the fantastical).

Brandon and Harry, supported by a larger cast, are the heart of Gungrave. Their character arcs are something to be studied at length for how well and believably the characters evolve by the end. It’s rare to see a story that doesn’t treat friendship as an all-binding law. I enjoy a ‘power of friendship’ story as much as the next viewer, but it’s always a pleasure to see a story that questions if friendship really is all-powerful. And Gungrave manages to convey all of this without resorting to long conversations. Most stories can only manage such depth by sitting the characters down for long dialogues to explain their motives, which is rather dull, even if insightful. Brandon’s restriction as a silent character forced the writers to express thought without word – that look in his eye, that moment’s hesitation. Gungrave conveys development through actions, choices and consequences, never resorting to extended conversations where characters tell us where they stand.

Despite the serious gangster story and unfettered violence, there are moments of well-timed humour to give the audience time to breathe. If you have seen the famous gangster films, you will know that despite the many guns, action occupies only a small amount of screen time. Guns in mafia films aren’t about delivering action, but as tools to convey character emotions. Gungrave is no different. The syndicate isn’t about killing. It’s about control and family, understating how humans work and what makes them comfortable, makes them unwilling to defy you, or better yet, work for you.

The action, when present, is excellent and doesn’t drag for episodes on end. That said, when the action does dominate the final third (also like most gangster films), it isn’t as good as preceding episodes. An unfortunate side effect of having such powerful drama come first – a real first-world [story] problem.

Gungrave still keeps me glued to the screen after several viewings for its subtlety in character and is my favourite anime. Can you believe this is based on a video game? It’s amazing that a simple action game spawned such an excellent series. If only movies could manage such adaptation quality.

Art – High

Gungrave looks great for a pre-HD anime with a Trigun and Cowboy Bebop-esque art style. The action looks fantastic and cinematography works overtime to amplify characters’ emotion.

Sound – Very High

The cast couldn’t be better for Gungrave’s Japanese track. Even with the European-dominated naming (some Engrish), I recommend sticking with Japanese. Tomokazu Seki, once again, delivers the perfect quiet character. The music consists mostly of slow jazz and solo violin. I like the lyric-less OP.

Story – Very High

A mafia story of power, greed, family and loyalty. Characters and development of excellent depth.

Overall Quality – Very High

Recommendation: A must watch. Gungrave is an exemplar is subtle characterisation and uncensored human nature. Remember to start at episode one or two depending on your preferred story type.

(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:

Deep NarrativeExtensive Character DevelopmentHoly S***Phenomenal VillainRiveting ActionStellar Voice ActingStrong Lead Characters

Negative: None

Claymore – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Claymore

 

Similar: Berserk

Attack on Titan

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Fantasy Action Adventure

Length: 26 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Brutal action with interesting abilities and monsters.
  • Unnerving soundtrack.

Negatives:

  • Bloody hell, will someone kill that kid already?
  • Poor exposition techniques.
  • Animation shortcuts in the action.
  • Unfinished threads.

Claymore is set in a world of bloodthirsty youma and warrior women who roam the land hunting these demons. Clare is the newest and lowest ranked of these warriors called Claymores – named after the giant swords they wield. Claymores are half-youma themselves; they live in constant danger of the youma half taking control, though it always happens eventually, at which point another Claymore sister will hunt them down.

The Claymore lore is the most interesting element of this anime. Claymores follow a strict code. They have little human about them and are cold by nature, which makes it unusual when Clare picks up orphaned boy Raki on a mission after a youma ate his family. That was her first mistake. Her second mistake was not running him through in the first episode. I hate that kid. He is a whiny, useless brat, who claims to be her cook, but he only cooks once, and most ironic of all, Claymores barely need to eat. His true purpose is to question Clare’s every action and motivation as if that is any of his business. Clare should decapitate that brat and put his head on a pike as a warning to other writers on what happens when you write such a terrible character.

Clare has a relentless determination as she carves demons, each fight a challenge for any Claymore – limb dismemberment and bifurcation is a common sight here. Meanwhile, Raki, a human who can’t fight to save his life, fancies himself Clare’s saviour. I almost forgot, another Raki irritation: exposition. The plot finds contrived ways to get Raki into a conversation that exposits lore – why tell that kid anything anyway?

I like the freaky monster designs. Even the Claymores turn demonic in combat when they access their youma side to grotesquely augment strength and regenerate damage. The women don’t suffer from the Beauty Is Never Tarnished trope.

Claymore is all about action, in the end, and you can expect to find plenty throughout Clare’s adventure. She encounters many other Claymores to learn from in her quest to avenge her figurative mother, Teresa (my favourite character), defeated by a former Claymore turned full youma. Each Claymore has a specialty in how they fight and sport some cool abilities, even if the animation quality can’t always supply the illustrations they deserve.

If you search for deep characters, you won’t find them here. If you desire a multi-layered plot, Claymore won’t deliver it to you. However, if you want brutal action accompanied by dark lore and powerful women with just enough to make an engaging tale, then look no further. Sometimes, action is enough for entertainment.

Art – Medium

Claymore has a nice, grim art style, but its battle anime budget resulted in too many animation shortcuts – repeated blur attacks, action flashes, cutaways before impact. Not as bad as the likes of Dragon Ball Z, and the action events are engaging, but a higher production could have gone a long way. Cool, sallow, hardened character designs for the Claymores (they must pluck their eyebrows a lot).

Sound – High

Good acting in either language, though, like most anime of this kind, Claymore doesn’t have the script for greatness. Love the Gothic horror metal (is that a genre?) soundtrack – ED song akin to Attack on Titan’s OP is great.

Story – Medium

Warrior women roaming the land to hunt demons; that is Claymore. Not the deepest premise, but it makes for an engaging action series. I do want to murder Raki, however. Stab him right in the face.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For action fans only. Claymore sports better fights than most action anime, so if that sounds good to you, then have at it. I watched it start to end without regret.

(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:

Great Music

Negative:

Weak End