Tag Archives: Shounen

Young Adult boys as the target audience.

Hyouka – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Hyouka

 

Similar: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU

Gosick

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Slice of Life Mystery

Length: 22 episodes, 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Pleasant art and animation details.

Negatives:

  • So boring.
  • No obstacles to the mysteries.
  • No reason to care.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Imagine a mystery where characters sit around and talk about the mystery instead of facing obstacles in the pursuit of answers. Now imagine that halfway through this series, what little mystery there was dwindles to a mere ember dying out in Sherlock Holmes’s fireplace. There you have Hyouka.

Oreki is a high school student who doesn’t like to expend energy unless absolutely necessary. He joins the school’s Classic Literature Club thinking it will be an easy ride without energy required, but when the inquisitive Eru begins an investigation into a mystery connecting her uncle and the club, his plans of laziness vanish.

Damn Hyouka is boring. This mystery they speak of is so uninteresting. It involves old books and finding meaning behind a passage, uncovering the author, getting the facts of a past incident, etc. The answer, which I won’t give away, feels so unimportant and is so unremarkable that I would understand if you thought it was a minor detail before the real solution.

It’s the journey, not the destination, you say? Well, the journey is a chore of bland dialogue replacing actual investigation. Where Sherlock Holmes – an inspiration for Hyouka (apparently) – would hit the streets looking for clues and talking to unusual witnesses, Oreki and co. chat with a librarian and then return to the clubroom to talk about the rest of the case. Hyouka has no flair, no style – no tension. Nonsense slice of life punctuates the investigation, though has no effect on the monotony, making Hyouka even duller.

Having a light mystery can work – we see it all the time in one-shot sitcom episodes – but you must have great characters to hang out with for the duration. Such pieces are more about having a good time with interesting people than about solving some deep mystery. Oreki’s trait of energy conservation has no purpose to the story. It’s a gimmick and nothing more. When a protagonist has ‘the trait,’ it must mean something to the story at large. As an example, Holmes’s abrasiveness gives him the ability to ask insensitive but necessary questions of witnesses and suspects alike. Yet this abrasiveness also makes him difficult to work with. Oreki’s laziness doesn’t do anything because he completes his task anyway with no meaningful conflict. Remove his gimmick and nothing changes.

To worsen matters, the second half of Hyouka devolves into meaningless slice of life – the Sherlock Holmes motif in the second ED is an insult, at this point. Hyouka’s mysteries are so few, so uninteresting that they run out of steam halfway through the series.

Honestly, I have so little to say about Hyouka that this feels like a waste of a review. It never gave me a reason to care about any of its characters or mysteries. So what drew me to this in the first place? When I was in Takayama (a town close to Shirakawa-go of Higurashi fame) for a festival, I saw in the hotel’s window a poster for Hyouka’s Blu-ray, which is set in fictional Kamiyama based on Takayama. When an anime takes place in a real Japanese location, the locals of said location size the opportunity to attract fans for tourism. ‘Location pilgrimages’ are common among otaku – similar to how Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings fans go on holidays to hunt filming locations. I was doing the reverse, interested in the fictional portrayal after visiting the real place. And as it turns out, the real place is far more engaging.

Art – High

The art is Hyouka’s best quality with its bright palette and great animation. The little movements in each scene are a nice touch.

Sound – Medium

Even top actors could not make this dry dialogue engaging. Characters talk a lot without saying much.

Story – Low

A lazy guy is roped into a literature club that seeks to uncover mysteries surrounding their clubroom and its books. Never have I seen mysteries less interesting nor so boringly told than in Hyouka.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. Hyouka is so boring that I can’t see reason to recommend it.

(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: None

Your Lie in April – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso

 

Similar: AnoHana

Kids on the Slope

Nodame Cantabile

Chihayafuru

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Music Drama Romance

Length: 22 episodes, 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • The protagonist’s arc and conflicts.
  • Balance of humour and drama.
  • Gorgeous music in both audio and visuals.

Negatives:

  • Love interest lacks a dimension.
  • Finale climax isn’t as strong as the mid-point.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Your Lie in April was the fan darling of the fall/autumn 2014 and winter 2015 seasons and though I avoided discussions, morsels still fell off the grapevine to inform me of its heavy emotional content. I feared another Clannad. But after several requests for review, it was time to step up.

Since the death of his mother, former piano prodigy Kousei can no longer ‘hear his music.’ The world is monotone in his eyes. Along comes Kaori, his opposite, a violinist with energy, colour, and humour he has never had. Her exuberance forces him back onto the stage to play a duet with her in a contest. She sees the potential to revive his passion.

Your Lie in April shows its strengths within minutes. First, I love the humour, which punctuates the drama to avoid depressing the audience – “The school shouldn’t be standing in the ball’s path!” Kousei’s childhood friend says after she smashed a baseball through a classroom window. In contrast, we have the foreshadowing, hinting of the sobriety and weight that is to come. The absence of his mother, the abuse he received by her cane, his lifeless view of the world, and his lack of joy are excellent foreshadowing. This is how you do dramatic storytelling – not by suddenly throwing it in for the final act.

As Kousei’s backstory unravels and his arc progresses, we see April’s most brilliant quality – the love-hate relationship between Kousei and his mother. The writer could have left the backstory at child abuse or even just having a dead mother, but this delves so much deeper. Boy abused by his mother – that’s the basic level. Boy abused by his mother, who wants him to be the prodigy she couldn’t be after illness claimed her motor functions – interesting. Boy abused by his voyeuristic mother, whom he still loves and wants to impress despite an awareness of the abuse – now you have my full attention. And she affects him more in death than in life? I can only be so engaged! Remember, this is just one thread in his arc.

The way the narrative shows this internal drama is spectacular. The spectre of his mother leering over his shoulder during a performance conveys all we need to know in a single image. That said, his inner monologue could do with trimming in parts.

Where Your Lie in April stumbles is in Kaori. If someone has recommended this anime to you, they have most likely done so by focusing on her and her arc as the best aspects. However, Kaori lacks the dimensions seen in Kousei. Earlier, I talked of the several layers in Kousei’s conflict with his mother, but for Kaori, she stops at the first level. She’s a girl with a serious illness. And that’s it for her conflict layers. By no means does this make her a bad character, yet for someone that is near equal protagonist to Kousei, it isn’t enough. Having a tragic circumstance doesn’t make a character deep – that way lies emotional manipulation.

Her main purpose is to be Kousei’s opposite as she brings him back to life, which she does excellently. The problem dwells in the two-way exchange. Because her own conflict is only surface deep, Kousei does not have much to help with in exchange. She complements him, but he doesn’t complement her with even a tenth of the effectiveness. For a great example of her role done right, look to Kimi ga Nozomu Ein, where the love interest also has to bring the protagonist back to life. The difference between Kaori and Nozomu’s girl is that the latter has her own intangible weakness to interfere with her good qualities. She’s helpful and kind, but also selfish, never mind the seed of resentment buried deep within her towards the protagonist’s previous girlfriend, who was also her best friend (drama!). This gives the protagonist an angle to help the love interest in return. Kaori is kind – no but. Yes, she’s sick, though as mentioned earlier, that doesn’t automatically give emotional flaws. Now, if the illness made her bitter or some such, then we’d be talking.

Kaori’s design problems also result in her finale having half the impact of Kousei’s dramatic high note at the mid-point. If their relationship had had more give and take, her finale would have struck better. The finale is still good regardless because of his perspective on the events and the spectacular final performance (bloody hell that is beautiful).

Also, she’s too whimsical. Her introduction has her dancing and playing music atop a kids’ igloo, tears in her eyes, as birds fly around her. I know her liveliness is to juxtapose his introduction – the episode is titled ‘Monotone/Colourful’ after all – but this is so whimsical that a flock of tweety birds now serenade me awake every morning and bring me my slippers.

Again, I want to stress that Kaori is not a bad character. She is plenty of fun and complements Kousei well, but is average beyond this and not the reason to watch Your Lie in April.

I wish I had more space to explore the childhood friend’s arc – my word count is already high – so a quick note, since it’s worth mention. She realises she has feelings for Kousei only once he takes an interest in Kaori. She was there for him through the worst and now…he’s turning away. This is an effective subplot in showing another consequence of Kousei’s actions. I feel so sorry for her.

Well, here we are, the end of an anime I both looked forward to and dreaded. Your Lie in April turned out much better than I anticipated (Kousei’s arc, honestly, brilliant) and I would recommend it to most viewers.

Art – High

Colourful and vibrant art makes this anime leap off the screen, especially in the spectacular final performance. Full animation when playing music is great to see and they mask the CG well.

Sound – Very High

Piano and violin? You truly are trying to make me love you, aren’t you? The VO is great in both languages, as should be expected these days.

Story – High

An aimless pianist has colour injected back into his life when a girl his opposite forces him to tickle ivory again. Your Lie in April has one of anime’s greatest character arcs in its multi-layered protagonist, but the love interest, who should by all right be his match in quality, doesn’t leave his shadow.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Watch it. Your Lie in April is a great anime, worth it for the protagonist alone. Even viewers averse to heavy drama will find the humour enough to stave off depression after the story’s darkest moments.

(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:

Deep NarrativeExtensive Character DevelopmentGreat Music

Negative: None

Mobile Police Patlabor TV – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Mobile Police Patlabor: On Television

 

Related: Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie (sequel)

Mobile Police Patlabor: Early Days (shorter alternative version)

Similar: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Full Metal Panic!

Dai-Guard

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Contemporary Mecha Science Fiction Comedy

Length: 47 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Well aged visually.
  • Mech designs.

Negatives:

  • Out done in every way by contemporaries.
  • Protagonist’s immaturity.
  • Flat dub.
  • Not particularly interesting nor funny enough.

(Request an anime for review here.)

I’m not sure if I am disappointed with Mobile Police Patlabor TV. On one hand, I was looking forward to it. On the other, it wasn’t bad nor did it have anything of particular annoyance. I don’t know how to describe how much nothing there is to this cult classic anime.

Mobile Police Patlabor TV focuses on Izumi and her motley police crew, who use mechs called Patlabors to fight crime and protect the people. Labors – heavy mechanised robots – are everywhere in society from construction to military, so it’s important for law enforcement to know how to handle them.

Izumi is the feisty new girl assigned to piloting the latest ‘patrol labor’ under the mentorship of a veteran from the LAPD. Izumi is also the first and main reason for Patlabor’s nothingness. She is too immature to be believable as such an important member of the police. Her immaturity isn’t the kind to make you beg for a merciful death within a few episodes – it’s simply results in a whole lot of nothing in terms of conflict, development, or anything really.

It’s common to have the protagonist of a comedy be a goofy character, even when in a demanding job. The key, however, to sell us on the goofiness plus the professionalism is to have a professional quality that makes us believe they can do the job. An example that leaps to mind is Jake Peralta, protagonist from TV comedy Brooklyn-Nine-Nine, who puts Izumi’s goofiness to shame. No matter the hijinks he gets up to, the one thing he is good at is being an officer. Yes, Izumi gets the job done (because the author wrote it that way). I still never bought that she was the right choice or even qualified to be a part of the mobile unit. She doesn’t have a professional quality to compensate. As a result, the conflict doesn’t feel serious because the writer didn’t send a serious character to face it.

Most episodes feel like daily life at the police station, goofing around with little conflict and mostly training. For the comedy, Patlabor has its fair share of good jokes, reminiscent of the Police Academy movies, though none had me in pain from laughter. Most jokes tend to be amusing but not ‘lough out loud’ funny, and yet not eye-gougingly bad either. Again, mostly nothing. Full Metal Panic executes all this comedy better.

For an alternative take, Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie has Izumi as a mature character and the conflict has more weight, both at the expense of humour, which does remove much of Patlabor TV’s identity. Even so, I found the movie more engaging (the shorter length didn’t hurt either). I almost feel bad for not recommending Mobile Police Patlabor TV due to its friendly nature.

Art – Medium

Patlabor looks good for its age thanks to a remaster. I like the mech designs.

Sound – Medium

The dub is flat (“Why you!” – listen to Izumi’s delivery on that line), owed in part to the middling script, but the Japanese actors worked much better with the given material.

Story – Medium

A mobile police unit uses mechs to fight crime and try to live a normal life. A bit too ‘normal’ to excite much interest, yet not exactly disagreeable either.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Skip it. Mobile Police Patlabor TV is remarkably unmemorable, which is in itself quite memorable. Watch Full Metal Panic if you want the better comedy side or Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex for the serious side.

(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: None

Eureka Seven – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Eureka Seven

 

Related: Eureka Seven AO (sequel)

Eureka Seven – Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers (alternative version)

Similar: Gundam SEED

Xam’d: Lost Memories

Gurren Lagann

Guilty Crown

Neon Genesis Evangelion

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Romance Action Adventure Drama

Length: 50 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Art is quite nice.
  • Some cool mechs.

Negatives:

  • Keeps changing its identity.
  • A chore to finish.
  • “Eh-oo-wreck-ah”
  • Romance lacks believability.
  • Crying!

(Request an anime for review here.)

Eureka Seven, what a ch— Sorry, Ehoowrecka Seven, what a chore to sit through. How can an anime about air surfing mechs be this tedious?

Our arduous journey starts when a mech known as Nirvash typeZERO crashes in 14-year-old Renton’s small town of Bellforest. A girl called Ehoowrecka Eureka pilots Nirvash, a unique mech capable of controlling Trapar waves like no other machine, and being the first girl he has probably ever seen, Renton falls in love with her. Infatuated and desperate to escape his small town life, he joins her in Gekkostate against the military.

Gekkostate? Trapar? Nirvash typeZERO? Ehoowrecka? Lore is the first of Eureka Seven’s problems. As is evident, it bombards the viewer with specialist terms (nouns often made up for lore) within the first episode, never giving a chance to let them sink in. All these terms featured in the official blurb – a bad sign (Tip: the best blurbs mention no names). On top of half the characters having made up names, every sci-fi object has an unintuitive sci-fi name that if looked at on paper, you wouldn’t guess its purpose. This world didn’t have questions I wanted to explore further – I just wanted to get out.

Sci-fi/fantasy often invents specialist terms, but it is crucial to introduce these elements with memorable impact. If you call a fire spell ‘Schinezarcher’ and don’t introduce (and repeat) it in the right way, the viewer will simply say, ‘what’s it called? You know, that big fire spell.’

Think of Star Wars and how not confused you are in that film. It doesn’t throw Jedi, Midi-chlorians (shudder), Ewoks, Endor, Lando, and the like at you within five minutes. Star Wars uses a mix of intuitive terms (Lightsaber, Death Star) and unintuitive terms with proper introduction. When they threaten to destroy Alderaan, we see the planet Alderaan on the screen. You don’t want Alderaan confused for a battleship. They don’t have to point and say, “That’s Alderaan!” We get it through context. Eureka Seven will have two characters talking as a new term enters the lexicon – no visual aids, no context assist. Not all words need immediate explanation, of course, but there should be a point soon after that cements the meaning. The more unintuitive a term the more emphasis required. Gekkostate is the name of the mercenary/terrorist group they are a part of, by the way. At least the anime ingrains Eureka’s name by kicking you out of the experience each time someone uses it. Elements that are supposed to be cool or significant leave no impact because we don’t have groundwork to stand on first.

Why is this hater rambling on and on about bloody lore, you ask? Well, dear reader, this problem with the lore applies to everything in Eureka Seven. The sudden romance between…Renton (took a moment to remember his name) and Eureka has no establishment. Sudden infatuation from a teen boy towards a teen girl? Happens more than you know. A lasting romance we are told is profound? That requires foundations and work to build up. Why are these two kids so into each other? They have nothing to love about each other. If he wanted to bang that receding hairline, biology suffices as explanation, but life changing love? Sure thing, mate.

Renton spends most of the series crying while Eureka looks after a batch of kids. These kids! Bloody hell, I have never hoped more for child characters to die off each episode (not even Carl from The Walking Dead demands such loathing). And it almost happened too. Eureka’s backstory is that she was a mindless soldier and killed the parents of these kids before she snapped out of it, which raises yet another poorly established point. These kids love the woman that killed their parents without any story selling us on the idea. Maybe it’s just me, but loving my parents’ murderer would take more than ‘just because’. Show us this backstory instead of a recap in episode fourteen (!).

Eureka Seven just throws stuff into the story and hopes you care on instinct rather than merit. Dislike an element anyway? Don’t worry, the show veers off in a random direction every dozen episodes to haphazardly grab your interest again. The final villain’s plan when the whole shebang comes out is a good idea, but that don’t matta’ cause Renton gotta get his bone on.

Eureka Seven does not respect your time as a viewer. It’s like that person we all know who asks for a lift, is late to the pickup, and then expects you to have known they would be late. Screw that guy.

Art – High

Good art and animation – I like the mechs. Why does every character have a receding hairline?

Sound – Medium

The acting is good, but the music is forgettable and the script leaves a lot to be desired. Renton’s every line seems to be in question form. Also, the naming scheme is arse.

Story – Low

The sudden appearance of a girl and her mech sweeps a boy on board a mercenary group’s adventure. With an empty romance, a whiny protagonist, annoying kids, and an identity that changes every arc, Eureka Seven takes iron concentration to finish.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. Fifty episodes is a lot to ask of your time for such an unremarkable series. The likes of Gundam SEED and Gurren Lagann use your time better than Eureka Seven does.

(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: 

DissapointingUseless Side Cast

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kidou Senshi Zeta Gundam

 

Related: Mobile Suit Gundam (prequel)

Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ (sequel)

Gundam Neo Experience 0087: Green Divers (side story)

Similar: Gundam SEED Destiny

Aldnoah.Zero

Legend of the Galactic Heroes

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Mecha Science Fiction Action Drama

Length: 50 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Surprising consequences.
  • Good conflict and turns.
  • Cements the UC Gundam art style.

Negatives:

  • Unlikeable protagonist.
  • Several idiotic characters run rampant.
  • Poor execution of ideas.
  • Where is the security?
  • Mediocre dialogue and acting.

(Request an anime for review here.)

The first two episodes of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam had me in stitches with their absurdity. You have to see it to believe it, but I will try my best to describe the events. We first get to know what sort of a kid 17-year-old Kamille is when he jumps a turnstile to punch a stranger and superior officer in the face for making fun of his name. He even yells, “I’m a MAN!” He’s arrested, of course, receives an earful of forced expository preaching, attacks the arresting officer, escapes by luck, steals an officer’s car without objection, crashes through a military barricade under gunfire without a scratch, and jumps from the speeding vehicle for some idiotic reason – there’s an explanation, I’m sure. Next, he waltzes into a Gundam right in front of its pilot and several soldiers, and after a brief battle simply flies off with it to join the enemy. Just gifts the Gundam along with another mech to the attackers. Who looked at this start and greenlit it without question? (My suspicions fall on some shadowy Kamille-looking figure.) Gundam truly knows how to lay on the stupid sometimes.

Anyway, on to the actual review. Zeta Gundam takes place seven years after the original Mobile Suit Gundam, the war between Earth and Zeon over, though remnants of Zeon remain. To hunt them down, the Earth Federation created the Titans, an elite Gundam unit (the one Kamille stole from). Given free reign, the Titans have gone beyond protocol to become power-crazed thugs, which gives rise to the rebellious Anti-Earth Union Group. After stealing the Gundams, Kamille joins the AEUG where former Zeon hero Char works as a pilot called Quattro (poor disguise, to be honest).

Interestingly, barring Kamille and the idiocy around him, Zeta’s premise is a strong one, ripe with conflict. The protagonist joining the enemy right away is intriguing. It even redeems itself from Kamille later by having serious consequences to some of his actions. The execution could be more believable, but it’s something. And he at least has piloting experience before using a Gundam, unlike many protagonists in this franchise.

It’s a real shame they made him so bloody unlikeable – a petulant child. If he didn’t have plot armour, he would have been shot dead several times from all the absurdities he pulls. They aren’t even ‘action movie’ absurdities that fall under ‘The Rule of Cool’. His actions are simply stupid.

This stupidity isn’t isolated to him either. One character later on frees a prisoner for a stupid reason, when the episode previous he was the toughest on the enemies. What loopy character development is this? Zeta is also the origin of the Gundam trope where a character volunteers for war but refuses to kill anyone, yet imagines they won’t die on the front line. The failings may remind you of a modern Gundam. Where Gundam SEED was a throwback to the original, SEED Destiny paralleled Zeta, intolerable protagonist and the pacifist included.

Remember Kamille stealing a Gundam while no one did anything? I lost count how many times someone unauthorised gets into a mech on impulse and petulance, screwing up for everyone. Don’t these mechs have security? Zeta exemplifies why teens should never be in charge of war.

You can see what the writers wanted to do with, for example, starting Kamille as a prick before he gains responsibility and grows up. Sadly, they don’t sell the transitions, primarily because they allow characters to pull off the most absurd actions without consequence. If they want someone to free a prisoner, that’s fine, but don’t let it slide with an insignificant punishment, simply because of plot armour. When a character screws up, make them pay or the audience won’t buy the story. These consequences should be the driving force in character development, not some out of nowhere change the writers suddenly need.

Zeta has a good story when viewed from a macro level or when following the adults like Char. It’s simultaneously worse and better than Gundam 0079 – worse because it fails in more areas, yet better because its strengths are more engaging than its predecessor was. The writers seem to have forgotten what made Amuro a good protagonist in 0079. However, more happens this time around. Gone is the season-long escape from a single enemy and the flat lined third act.

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam took the franchise in a direction closer to what we would recognise today – flaws included – and is well worth a watch to Gundam fans.

Art – Medium

I like how Zeta Gundam cements what would become the franchise’s art style for the next two decades, but its age shows, particularly in the animation department. The need for smoother frame transitions becomes apparent in the first scene with Kamille running. Thankfully, mechs flying in space don’t take much work.

Sound – Medium

Zeta Gundam still has the old-timey music – OP could be from an 80s prom – but the background music is more modern. The acting is a bit stiff, more so in the dub, and the dialogue could do with work.

Story – Medium

An elite mech force called the Titans are responsible for eradicating the remnants of Zeon, the antagonists of Mobile Suit Gundam, but the Titans may be just as bad. A teen boy finds himself amidst the conflict alongside a man who looks a hero of the previous war. Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam has great ideas and conflict; however, the execution of these could do with serious work – start with the protagonist.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For Gundam fans. Only fans of the franchise can handle the bad Gundam tropes that bog down Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and see the qualities beneath.

(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:

Induces Stupidity