Iron Man was the first of the Marvel anime and like the other titles, this takes place in Japan with billionaire inventor Tony Stark arriving in the land of the rising sun to unveil his Arc Station, which would supply clean energy to the country free of charge. He intends to announce his retirement as Iron Man at the ceremony and have a new generation of armour pilots take over. It all goes wrong, however, when his new armours turn on the people.
The ‘Iron Man in Japan’ conceit may sound forced for the local market, but it has precedence in the comics. Tony had a significant arc in Japan as he dated a Japanese woman (same one as in this anime? I can’t recall), which made this adaptation smoother than the likes of Blade.
Iron Man is decent if you want a straightforward plot with action, life-threating dilemmas, and comic book craziness. The plot later incorporates a virus, mind control, and mechs.
This anime has two huge problems: the Marvel movies and the variety of Western Iron Man/Avengers cartoons available. Why bother with this anime when you can watch those instead? This applies to all Marvel anime productions. They are decent at best, which isn’t good enough to warrant your attention unless you really want to see Marvel characters in anime.
It may be harsh to have much of the criticism relate to other adaptations, but every viewer will make the comparisons regardless. Even standalone, what you have here in Iron Man is your average action series.
Art – Medium
The art is good, but Iron Man’s CG, while not the worst, does standout at times. A hell of a lot better than Blade (effort ran out by the fourth series?)
Sound – Medium
Neither audio track has enough charisma for Tony Stark – decent otherwise.
Story – Low
Tony Stark goes to Japan to unveil his Arc Station and a new line of power armour with hopes of retiring, but a criminal organisation puts those plans on hold. The story get silly in the end, but it’s okay overall.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: Eh… Watch the movies or Western cartoons instead unless you want an anime that requires no concentration to enjoy.
I put off FLCL’s review for the longest time, but with the sequel announced, I guess death is inevitable now, so best get it over with.
Naota’s dreary life turns upside down when the mother of all annoyances, Haruko Haruhara, crashes her scooter into him and bats him with her guitar. It’s not long before a horn grows from his forehead and a robot bursts forth. Haruko and the robot take up residence in his home, against his wishes, but that’s the least of his worries with the battle over his power yet to come.
It’s hard to get a sense for FLCL without watching it. The comedy is best described as ‘LOL random’, the action as flashy yet pointless, and the metaphors as trite. FLCL masks its meagreness by throwing everything and the kitchen bin at you. With one episode’s worth of substance stretched across six, it is no wonder they filled the time with random humour and weak imagery. The inconsistent tone with no throughput line to tie it all together delivers a disjointed anime. Haruko’s sole purpose seems to be to yell spontaneously some idiocy or other, just in case coherence is trying to take a foothold. She is a contender for worst character of all time.
You will hear viewers talk of how hard it is too follow FLCL. Don’t confuse this for complexity. They refer to the lack of cohesion, not depth of ideas. Anyone would be forgiven for getting a headache from all the noise. The Tatami Galaxy is far weirder, yet has leagues more cohesion and sense.
The genius depth fans claim to find in FLCL comes from the metaphors. I hate to break it to them, but these metaphors couldn’t be more obvious. A girl slamming into (love at first sight) and giving “mouth-to-mouth” to a guy, which makes a horn (boner) grow from his forehead doesn’t take genius to figure out. Oh wow, he’s attracted to her and has a hard-on for her against all sense later, just like every other teenager – colour me shocked. My mind has expanded…
The defence for all these shows is “You don’t get it.” I don’t know why people think that any story is hard to ‘get’. I think they confuse their fascination of an art piece – often a piece that showed them something new or a new way of thinking – as some hidden genius, and if others don’t find it deep, then it must be because they haven’t seen it yet, they haven’t been enlightened to the secret genius of the artwork. No, everybody saw it, everybody got it – they had simply seen better before. “You don’t get it” is the worst defence you can use. It makes you look like a simpleton unable to justify your stance on a critique. (I’m not referring to the “It’s not your type of art” meaning of “don’t get it” – just the “you are too stupid to understand it” version. We really need to start using two different phrases.)
Even setting all the above aside, a good metaphor doesn’t require understanding to succeed. The subtext simply adds to the effect, similar to an Easter egg or a subtle call back to a previous series. If you read Moby Dick and think it’s about hunting a whale, then you can still enjoy it as a great book. See the metaphor, and it gets even better. The best metaphors enhance your experience without your knowledge. You’ll find that the way a story came together, the narrative resonance from start to finish, is brilliant yet not realise it is because of the overarching metaphor. Then a friend happens to mention it years later and it all clicks together like that final Lego piece. You didn’t see the metaphor, but you subconsciously got it.
An easy technique to analyse the weird and zany is to strip it down to the basics, to the characters and story. Do they still have complexity? No? Then all the world’s weirdness won’t save them. Yes, weirdness adds to the style, presentation, enhan— it’s the difference between some monotone bloke versus Stephen Fry narrating an audiobook. It makes a difference, perhaps enough to be entertaining, but it doesn’t fix underlying problems. The best CG doesn’t save a bad film, does it?
FLCL certainly has good ideas. You can see the same ideas of teen sexuality in Neon Genesis Evangelion and the action style went in Gurren Lagann later on. If you want the weirdness executed with control and thought, look no further than Kill la Kill. Brought together like this is just a mess, however.
Even at a mere six episodes, FLCL was a chore to finish – took four sessions. I found it boring all those years ago and I still think the same today.
Art – High
Good animation and clever shot compositions are FLCL’s only redeeming features.
Sound – Low
The script is nonsense accompanied by weak acting, and yet the dub is infinitely worse. Avoid it!
Story – Very Low
A kid’s life turns upside down when a crazy girl with a guitar hits him in the head and a robot grows from his forehead soon after. FLCL’s reliance on random humour to fill time between plot moments marks it as a show lacking in confidence and substance.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: Skip it. If you must watch FLCL, don’t subject yourself to the dub.
Look at any poster, video or screenshot of Zegapain. It looks like trash. It requires effort to make characters this generic and to have mecha designs this ugly. This doesn’t happen by accident. The dialogue is just as you imagine accompanying that art. So why would a reader recommend I review Zegapain, likening it to RahXephon in the process? I was even more confused after the first episode – one of anime’s worst starts.
It opens on protagonist Kyo having to kiss a guy disguised as a girl for a student film by his friend Ryoko. He refuses, notices a buxom babe on the high dive outside, strips to his Speedos, and charges off to meet her. (Does he always wear swimmers instead of underwear?) His enthusiasm comes from finding a new recruit to his dying swim club. Next thing he knows, he’s part of a conference call with the military. The girl, Misaki, puts his hand on her boob, pulls him into her chest, and they teleport aboard a mech. (Right…) She tells him to treat the battle like a VR game. I laughed when the mech warns of incoming enemies, but Misaki praises Kyo for spotting them so quickly – girl, he didn’t do anything! He fights perfectly without training. Though there is more to his story, it’s still a cataclysmically stupid idea to bring him to the front line. A better writer would sell the situation.
Before first episode’s end, it is evident that the characters have no depth – I imagine the brainstorm session took five minutes. Only a couple have goals and motivations. The battle tech is a bunch of ‘stuff’ doing ‘things’ cobbled together without thought of how this works or how it came to be.
Needless to say, but Zegapain seems like a bottom-dwelling anime at this point.
However, after a few more battles of floaty CG and meaningless action, Kyo finds a glitch on the battlefield. A message tells him not to believe his world. And that’s where things start to get interesting. We have a Matrix situation here, except he can’t be sure of which world is reality. If his high school is virtual, then who are all these people? And how did the outside world turn to ruin? More and more mysteries unfold as the plot develops, resulting in an intriguing storyline. I’m as astonished as you are.
Of course, it doesn’t erase the fact that the script seems randomly generated or that the characters are surface deep, but this one strength is enough for me to enjoy Zegapain to the end.
Kyo is still a bad protagonist. He’s far too accepting of everything for the convenience of the writer’s laziness. He teleports suddenly from school to the battleship thanks to a gizmo in his forehead, is about to ask where the gizmo came from and how he got it, when he says, “Ah, whatever, it got me here after all.” Even more reason to question it, you idiot! And what is the obsession with returning to this swim club subplot every episode? It doesn’t matter! Hell, why swimming? It isn’t realistic that a swim club in the heat of Japan’s summer would struggle for members. It’s for Misaki in the swimsuit, isn’t it?
Several episodes that lean more slice of life are a waste of time as well and the antagonists are as weak as the heroes. Despite all these faults, something about the reality versus virtual reality plot gets me. It just gets me.
Zegapain is a hidden gem— well, gem is a bit much. More like a peculiar stone on the riverbank with an unusual texture that a few will find interesting.
Art – Very Low
Zegapain approaches Hand Shakers level of CG with its mechs. Furthermore, why make them CG if you aren’t going to take advantage of the easier animation tools? What was the point? The regular art has zero creativity and even randomly drops in quality on occasion.
The voice actors do the best they can with this bad script. I think the music came royalty free.
Story – Medium
A teen has to distinguish between reality and the virtual world amidst an alien occupation and high school troubles. The characters and action may have no merit, but the plots works well.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: Give it a chance. Zegapain is most engaging if you can enjoy a good story in the face of weak characters and ugly art.
Metropolis adapts the 1949 manga of the same name from the creator of Astro Boy (hence the character designs), Osamu Tezuka, who based this story on a single image of the famous 1927 Metropolis silent film. As such, despite sharing a name and setting, the two versions have little in common.
The city of Metropolis rose to greatness thanks to leaps and bounds in technological advancements. Robots have replaced much of the manual labour and menial tasks. However, what should have been a utopia of man and machine, has turned into a class war. Robots are second-class citizens, attacked and destroyed by rioters on a daily basis. They cannot venture beyond their designated zones. Japanese detective Shunsaku and his nephew Kenichi arrive in town on the trail of an organ trafficking case, but the master of Metropolis, Duke Red, has plans involving a robot girl of his creation that throws them off track.
Metropolis draws you in with its city design. Life bustles and clanks along on every corner and in every alley, creating a sense of wonder and a desire to see more. But a film is about story, and it’s not long before you start to ask where this elusive feature has gone. Every character moves in every scene – it never stops to sit down and show us motion within characters. More scenes go towards showing us the world and all the fancy art techniques used than towards developing characters. Art came over story.
The plodding pace of the first act is manageable thanks to the world, though once in the second act and the pace is still like gears grinding together, it becomes difficult to pay attention. The heroes are your standard good guys, which is obviously not ideal, yet I believe the true problem lies with the antagonists. The Duke is your typical Big Boss Villain atop the Tower, residing in the background for the most part (why does he look like a cockatoo?). The other is his adopted son, Rock. He goes after the robot girl, intent on destroying her out of jealousy. The Duke lost his daughter and would rather create an artificial replacement over accepting Rock. His daddy issues aren’t interesting because they lack a foundation to make us care or see them as a problem. We have a few brief interactions between father and son that serve to advance plot, not deepen character. One could say the same for much of the cast. They are tools to the story, nothing more.
The third act finally gets it together to give us action atop the highest skyscraper, which makes for a spectacular and tense set piece. Emotion and character enter the spotlight as the truth behind the robot girl comes out. The Duke reached for the sun in his beloved city and it went beyond his control. He constructed his tower too high and it fell so far. You may notice this as an adaptation of the Tower of Babel, and you’d be right – Metropolis outright states this. Some subtlety would be nice.
I love art as much as anyone does, but story is more important. Metropolis has plenty of the former and mere morsels of the latter.
Art – Very High
Tezuka’s Astro Boy character art of Popeye biceps and effeminate curls on everyone has never looked good to me. It doesn’t hold up, nor does the once spectacular CG for several scenes. I was going to give the art a High rating, until the finale blew me away. It’s magnificent.
Sound – Medium
The acting is fine in either language, while the music is serviceable. The finale song is the only standout.
Story – Low
A detective and his nephew become involved in the plight of a robot girl amidst a technologically advanced city. Metropolis put nine out of ten energy cells into the art, leaving a blinking check engine light for the characters and plot.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: For art fans. Metropolis is an engaging time if great art alone can sustain your enjoyment.
In a world where everyone has large anime eyes, Ryuuji’s narrow eyes and pinpoint irises mark him as a thug, the worst kind of thug, a thug that is…nice. Taiga is a doll of a girl, tiny, cute, and a bundle rage that hates her public image of a fragile midget. As is natural, these two opposites collide and help set each other up with their crushes – Ryuuji likes Taiga’s best friend, while Taiga likes his best friend. And they’re neighbours. What a coincidence! But could it be that they are meant to be with each other? Find out in Toradora!
I have watched too much anime. Watching Toradora, I realised I had seen it all before several times, though not to this anime’s fault. I have to shift my mindset if I want to analyse it fairly. Ever wonder why all of those atrocious games journalists think “artsy” indie games are masterpieces? It’s because they’ve played too many games and those faux-deep indies are something different from the popular titles. Something different can instil a false sense of quality to a lazy “critic”. Ironically, they probably haven’t played enough games or they would have experienced the inspirators already. I never want to be in that cesspool.
So, to give Toradora a fair chance – or honestly, any art a fair chance – I look at its own merits. Of course, part of that merit is to see if it learnt from its predecessors. You can’t release a story without character development and claim it’s a masterpiece just because that’s how stories were thousands of years ago. It is important to note that nothing in fiction is original. Nothing. Instead, what we mean by originality is how an artwork brings all its pieces together and at what skill level.
Alright, Toradora has the ‘opposites attract’ main couple, and its initial plot is the ‘help each other find love, only to realise it was beside us all along’ type. I am sure that all of you, dear readers, can think of several stories to have these two tropes. However, these two together is rarer. The more you mix elements, the more ‘original’ something feels. (Keep in mind not to be different for the sake of being different.) Toradora uses these two elements to great comedic results.
Ryuuji and Taiga concoct ridiculous schemes to pair the other up with his/her crush. Ryuuji knocks out his friend in sports class and takes the friend to the med bay so Taiga can spend time with him. Genius plan! She could just ask him, but noooooo… (Where have I written that before…?) I love the ludicrousness of anime romantic comedies.
One episode has Taiga give her love letter to the wrong guy. Hell, she doesn’t even put the letter in the envelope. It would be sad if it weren’t so funny. Everything goes wrong when her breast padding slips out in the school swimming pool. No one can know she is flat. I do have a problem with how hard they try to make her seem tough sometimes. It weakens the joke.
The supporting cast complements the main, particularly Taiga’s best friend/Ryuuji’s crush, reminiscent of Kill la Kill’s Mako (or rather, vice versa). I love that cheerleader type sidekick and wouldn’t say no to more of them.
Toradora isn’t without its touches of drama. The core theme of finding and being honest about yourself works well in bringing conflict amidst the comedy. One drama subplot that falls flat involves Taiga’s absentee father. He storms back into her life making promises, only to leave her disappointed. The subplot lacks impact (like her father, aye?) and could have gone further. It’s a minor point, regardless.
The ending plot is a bit…odd, but oddness is the hallmark of anime. And the end is rather sweet.
Alright, I’m going to leave it here. I have my first moment of free time in three months, so I finally have the opportunity to play some games. Reviews should be back to routine as well.
Art – High
Good character designs – distinctive protagonists. I wish the rest had the same level of effort. The animation is nice too.
Sound – High
Good voice work. The same actress voices taiga’s best friend and Mako from Kill la Kill for a hilarious sidekick. I didn’t like any of the theme songs in the slightest.
Story – High
A guy that looks like a thug and doll-like midget girl try to break free of the prejudice of others. Toradora mixes humour, heart, and a touch of drama to make a solid high school anime.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: A must for high school anime fans. If you haven’t seem much of the genre, then Toradora will likely impress. However, if you are familiar, then you won’t find much new here. Good series nonetheless.