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.
College graduate Souichi dreams of becoming a wholesome popstar. Shame then he became a death metal frontman so vulgar that Satan himself would evict him from Hell. Johannes Krauser II of Detroit Metal City (DMC) is said to have killed his own parents and then raped them. Or was it other way round? Either way, he can vocalise ten rapes a second! He killed his parents and so should you.
Detroit Metal City has one of the most absurd premises I have ever seen and it is hilarious! The shift back and forth from meek-mannered Souichi to indecency incarnated Krauser had me laughing every episode.
Problems most often arise when Souichi tries to put the moves on his crush, only to have Krauser’s crazed fans enter the scene and bring out his inner Demon King. He can’t supress his alter ego at the sound of DMC’s music, and pity any fool that dares challenge his might. In the first episode, DMC fans attack him for badmouthing the band to his crush after she says death metal is horrid. As a defence, he must air guitar Krauser’s moves to prove that he didn’t really mean it. This turn into a head banging, air banding romp and blurts out a line from his song – to do unsavoury things to the girl. She runs off in tears. Each episode’s scenario is funny. The rap battle may be the best. When Krauser raps, he destroys your life with shameful facts about your past.
Possibly my favourite character would be the band manager, who gauges how well a performance went by how wet she is and how many orgasms the music gave her. If she’s as dry as sandpaper, then the performance was trash!
This dark humour won’t be for everyone. Certainly not. Out of context, this all sounds horrid. Fans of the darker side will be in pain, however. One of the best decisions the team made with Detroit Metal City was to have half-length episodes (excluding OP and ED) with accelerated dialogue. It keeps the pace quick and the jokes rolling.
I had a ton of fun with the hidden gem that is Detroit Metal City. And don’t worry; Souichi’s parents are alive and well living peacefully in the countryside.
Art – Medium
Like South Park, Detroit Metal City uses intentionally jank art and seems recorded by someone holding their phone vertically at times. Shame! SHAME! But seriously, the art adds to the humour, though more visual variety and quirky animation would be better.
Sound – Very High
The acting is sharp, fast, and hilarious – the manager’s random English swearing is great. The music sucks in the perfect way.
Story – High
A soft-spoken boy dreams of singing innocent pop music, but transforms into the Demon King of death metal against his will when inconvenient. This premise works far better than expected to hilarious results.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: A must watch for dark humour fans. Detroit Metal City’s compact size packed with vulgarity of ludicrous proportions is a hilarious watch.
In a moment of desperation, a baseball professional hires the reckless gambler and pitcher Toua Tokuchi in the hopes of getting his team out of the gutter. Tokuchi is a risk for the team because of his gambling. He isn’t talking a couple of Gs on a game here and there. No, Tokuchi likes a few more zeros on that number and in much, much greater frequency. His first bet with the team owner, instead of a salary, is ¥10,000,000 for every out he pitches, but a loss of ¥50,000,000 for every run he forfeits. Bets only escalate for there.
This premise should sound familiar to many of you – it certainly did for me. But imagine my surprise when I learnt, near the end of the series, that One Outs is not from the folio of the extreme gambling mangaka god, Nobuyuki Fukumoto. It’s not just the premise that matches. The voice actor for Tokuchi is the same as Akagi and Kaiji (he only comes out of hiding for these roles). I should have noticed that this wasn’t one of Nobuyuki’s works when the protagonist begins as the king, not the underdog, and when the opponents were easy. Join me as we dive further.
One Outs starts on the back lots, where people bet on a shortened form of baseball called ‘one outs’. Roughly put, you bet either that the pitcher will get three strikes or that the batter will score a clean hit first. Tokuchi is a pro at this, having won 499 games. The first act is a series of increasing bets in this underground gambling format and loses interest after the first game. It doesn’t evolve beyond the bigger pot. We waste four episodes here.
After this, the story moves to the baseball stadium with Tokuchi’s new team in a few matches. It remains a gambling anime with a sport element, mind you, so this isn’t suddenly for sports fans. Here we encounter the problem of having an overpowered protagonist in the face of lesser opponents.
It’s not about him being better than any pitcher that has ever lived – this, I don’t mind. It’s part of the absurdity of these anime. The problem lies in the opponents, both on the field and off. The team owner, who plays main antagonist, has little impact watching the games in a comfy lounge chair from his office. He makes a few underhanded changes to the matches, but they’re negligible. Akagi and Kaiji pit their protagonists with the major villains face-to-face, on the field. This team owner is a pitiful substitute and a one-note character.
As for the opposing teams, they have a few interesting contenders, such an import player so fast he can secure any base. Unfortunately, most opponents and allies alike are complete idiots. They don’t have an ounce of professionalism to their character. Tokuchi even explains baseball basics to them as if this is their first game. These feel like dumb kids on the playground, which further compounds the problem of Tokuchi being such an invincible player. To convince the audience that a character is a genius, the best technique is to have him defeat an equal or smarter opponent in a clever and believable manner. If the opponents are idiots, then it gives the impression that your average Joe could do the same.
The escalation of bets is also predictable. “Here’s a ridiculous bet.” “Ha! I can’t believe you suggested that! You will never— oh damn, you won. No way!” You would imagine that after the tenth amazing feat people would catch on that Tokuchi is infallible, but you’d be wrong.
Where One Outs does engage is with the psychological manipulation. That said, it’s nowhere near a “genius” as the author thinks it is. Much of it relies on the dimwits for opponents.
The best moments occur when real strategy is involved. For example, a famous batter has to play with an injured elbow and a pitch to said elbow would end his career. Tokuchi takes advantage of this to psyche out the pitcher, making him aim away from the elbow out of fear that he might end the career of a beloved player, giving him an easy hit. There are enough of these moments to last the series, but I wish there were more. In fact, One Outs could have been better had Tokuchi been a decent pitcher yet with masterful strategy. Instead, he’s an alleged genius and the best pitcher you’ve never seen.
You may be thinking that I compare One Outs too much to Akagi and Kaiji, but they are the perfect examples of this concept done better. I don’t need to go beyond those when they demonstrate definitive superiority. One Outs will appeal either to those who haven’t seen this anime style before or to those who can’t get enough of it. I expect that I would have enjoyed this one much more had it been the first of its kind I had seen.
Art – Medium
One Outs doesn’t have the distinct style of its inspirators, though still in the same vein for the protagonist, instead blending in what reminds me of Initial D. Outside of characters running bases, there is little animation.
Sound – Medium
Masato Hagiwara returns for the third time as an extreme gambling protagonist, which is fitting. The rest of the cast is good as well. Soundtrack leaves much room for improvement.
Story – Low
A pitcher gambles millions on each game of baseball for the ultimate thrill. An infallible protagonist against amateurs pretending to be professionals weakens tension and limits potential.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: For fans of Akagi and Kaiji. While One Outs isn’t as good as those two series, if you like the ridiculousness of the extreme gambling then you will have fun.
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.
Imagine a world with a city built around a vast and seemingly endless chasm filled with monsters and treasures untold. This world is grand, gorgeous— a mysterious place that echoes silence and danger. Now imagine a shrill voice piercing that world for eternity. That is Made in Abyss.
This noise machine is Riko, a 12-year-old girl that wants to become a Cave Raider like her famous mother. She never stops talking. If another character isn’t talking, then she certainly is. The writer had her comment on everything. An energy blast out of nowhere fends off a monster about to eat her and she gives a line that someone must have saved her. No shit. She doesn’t ask, “What was that?” because it would mean less words. These ‘stating the obvious’ lines along with an inordinate amount of forced cuteness dialogue permeate the series.
Episode one does not have a moment of peace until the 20-minute mark. It lasts 18 seconds.
False enthusiasm constitutes half her character. As she searches for relics to bring back to town, she must keep telling us how enthusiastic she is while “cutely” tripping over and getting into accidents. It’s not enough that we can see enthusiasm. Oh no, she must tell us all about it. Made in Abyss desperately wants you to find Riko cute, at the expense of all else. Most of the humour falls flat because of how rammed down your throat it is. “Is she cute? I asked, is she cute!? IS SHE CUTE!?”
These characters are in this vast, mysterious world and instead of allowing the audience to take it in, the camera stays on this annoying girl. She does ease up a little later. However, various characters along the journey expositing on the Abyss replace her chirping. We almost spend more time hearing about the Abyss than exploring it, which leads to another problem with the script. The first nine episodes have three episodes’ worth of content – the first four could have fit into one episode. Unlike usual slow pacing where scenes drag on forever, Made in Abyss slots pointless scenes between events that matter. With all this excess space, why not include moments to reflect on the world and the adventure? Of course it has to be forced cuteness and pointless dialogues instead.
Riko’s descent into the Abyss begins when a Cave Raider returns to the surface with her mother’s white whistle (denotes rank) and a message that she is waiting below. Riko, who idolises her mother, answers the call and begins the journey with Reg, the robot boy that saved her with the energy blast earlier.
He is a bit of a problem in the story due to his ability to stretch his arms with ease and accuracy, which trivialises the danger of falling into the depths, and his arm cannon can obliterate the monsters that make the Abyss so dangerous. Made in Abyss still has tension, but you will realise how much easier several moments would be if the writer didn’t conveniently forget Reg’s power.
Along their journey, they face monsters and meet a variety of characters, most of which aren’t particularly interesting. One supposedly scary woman, a legend and partner to Riko’s mother, is a walking cliché of the mad woman with the low, insane voice. No one actually believes she would harm the kids, do they? Her scenario comes from a writer out of ideas for conflict during downtime.
Thankfully, characters become more interesting the further we descend into the Abyss. In fact, the whole anime is more interesting further down. The final three episodes are better than the previous 10 combined. The final episode is better than the previous 12 combined. The change in story and character quality is like a parabola, redeeming the show, though there are great elements before the final act. Most obviously, the world is fantastic, not just in the intrigue of the Abyss. The human society is fascinating because it isn’t like ours. You notice how mediocre anime in different worlds like Re:Zero still have people that feel as if they are from our world? No one acts medieval in those medieval worlds. Made in Abyss’s society is one shaped by the Abyss. There is no greater honour than being a Cave Raider that brings back the best relics. Everyone knows that once you go down you’re probably not coming back and yet it is still celebrated. Even a child descending isn’t particularly odd. It reminds of Spartan society where a warrior child is the norm, not the exception.
My favourite world building detail is that of the Curse. Reaching a certain level is a point of no return, as to ascend again would be to active the ‘Curse’, dooming any diver. The hardy can survive in the depths, assuming the increasingly powerful monsters don’t eat them. The origin and extent of the Curse is the mystery I am most eager to see answered.
Answers – Made in Abyss doesn’t give many of those and as such, its final quality is hard to determine. Most anime – any story, honestly – shows you its quality within a few episodes. That’s not to say there won’t be fluctuations, but typically, a good anime starts that way. You know it’s good from the beginning. However, for stories that hinge on the Great Mystery, the end can make or break everything. If the payoff doesn’t deliver, then all that came before has little value. Made in Abyss is one such story.
As such, my thoughts are temporary and I will write a new review after the series conclusion, to see how it all comes together. It could go either way.
Art – High
The backgrounds are stunning – out of Ghibli or Shinkai works. The animation, sadly, doesn’t stand out and the quality drops after a few episodes.
Sound – Medium
Great OP song – sounds like Seal’s ‘Kissed from a Rose’. The acting is fine, insufferable protagonist aside, but the script is at least 30% padded.
Story – Medium
An abyss of unknown depth calls to a child when her mother sends a message from the deep below. This first season of Made in Abyss sets up a mysterious world and delivers a great finale in spite of prior padding; however, everything hinges on the payoff that has yet to come. Do note that the last episode is the best, so the trajectory is upwards.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: Wait for another season. Made in Abyss, as it stands, is 99% setup, the first five episodes of other shows, and while the setup is great by episode 13, if it doesn’t pay off next season, then it isn’t worth it. Few anime need a complete adaptation as much as Made in Abyss does. Knowing the modern anime industry, expect to finish with the manga. Let’s hope MIA doesn’t take on its classical meaning…