Tag Archives: Shounen

Young Adult boys as the target audience.

Mobile Suit Gundam 00 – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kidou Senshi Gundam 00

 

Related: Gundam 00 Season 2 (included in review)

Gundam 00 The Movie – A Wakening of the Trailblazer (conclusion – included in review)

Similar: Code Geass

Full Metal Panic!

Gundam SEED

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Mecha Science Fiction Action Drama

Length: 25 episodes (S1), 25 Episodes (S2), 2 hr. movie

 

Positives:

  • A catalyst that grips from the get-go.
  • Sharp visuals and battle animations.
  • Varied and interesting Gundam designs.
  • Excellent acting in both languages.

Negatives:

  • Bland as bricks protagonist.
  • Ludicrous end to season 1, act 2.
  • Could do with more relationship conflict.
  • Several side characters receive far too much screen time before they become relevant.
  • Ultimate ending in the movie forgets why the story started.

In the year 2307, fossil fuels have depleted and the world has turned to solar power by building three orbital elevators to a ring of solar arrays in space. The world’s three alliances control an elevator each – Union (Americas), Human Reform League (most of Asia), and the AEU (Europe). However, smaller nations such as those of the Middle East don’t benefit from the arrays, forcing them into war for energy. Furthermore, the alliances secretly increase their military strength in defiance of the treaties. An independent group known as Celestial Being appears, intervening in wars and crushes all sides with the goal to end all conflict. They have the most powerful mechs the world has seen, allowing four Gundam Meisters to take on armies.

One of the best story pitches ever. Gundam 00 engaged me within minutes and kept the frames turning until the very end, despite its flaws.

We have a bloated cast here, but the focus is on the Meisters, Tieria, Allelujah, Lockon, and Setsuna, who receives the most screen time due to his Middle Eastern history. It’s a shame that he’s the dullest character. He barely says anything nor does he emote at all. He’s supposed to be the strong silent type, but delivers the bland nothing type. His archetype has a fine line between great and rubbish – I never find anyone in between. See Full Metal Panic’s Sagara (similar backstory to Setsuna, interestingly enough) for how it’s done.

The other pilots are good, Allelujah in particular with his split personality; however, while each pilot does have a short arc to illustrate their motivations, outside of those arcs, they lack interpersonal conflict, except Setsuna, for his birth country is at the centre of the main conflict. His plotline looking at child soldiers, religious fanaticism, and political conflict in a war-torn nation is interesting, but he isn’t.

Much of the cast bloating comes from a Chinese celebrity who helps fund Celestial Being, which the camera cuts to every episode, but all she does is sit there with a servant and make innocuous comments. Similar situation with uni student Saji and his girlfriend Louise; they serve to show the conflict from a civilian perspective without any effect on the plot until season two. Saji’s sister, a journalist reporting on Celestial Being, is more interesting and her investigations have conflict and tension that adds to the narrative. Saji and Louise should have been peripheral to her thread until needed.

Some dialogue made me cringe as well. Saji has to ask all the stupid questions on the audience’s behalf, though no one watching is that dumb. Setsuna (yet again) repeats barf-inducing line such as ‘I am a Gundam’ a dozen times throughout. I also hate the telekinetically linked dialogue thing they do – several people from different corners of the world, in no contact, finishing each other’s sentences by coincidence. Trying way too hard to be dramatic.

So, with these problems, how did Gundam 00 keep me watching? It’s because of the overall conflict. No faction misses the irony of using war to prevent war; the whole premise would have fallen flat if everyone had accepted Celestial Being as a great idea. In fact, a superpower uses Celestial Being to defeat an opponent, knowing they would have to interfere according to their own doctrine. Celestial Being has to intervene, always, regardless of which faction is in the wrong. The political game of RISK and its effects on the world economy and power is great to watch, and the best part of Gundam 00, coupled with intense action and a perfect pace.

Gundam 00 has its share of flaws, I grant you, and yet I have no qualms about recommending it anyone. Of course, if Gundam in general isn’t for you, this won’t be the series to convince you. For everyone else, get ready for an intense conflict that begs a marathon.

Movie: A Wakening of the Trailblazer – I get the impression the writers had no idea how to conclude such a strong opening premise. How does one end a story about achieving world peace? Well, world peace is out, since it isn’t realistic in any universe, but if it ends with more war, the audience won’t feel satisfied. So, what does one do? I’m not sure, but it certainly isn’t what A Wakening of the Trailblazer went with. The movie is rubbish. If the character names were changed and you didn’t know this was a sequel to Gundam 00, you wouldn’t guess they were related. Not required viewing. Movie Quality – Low

Art – High

Beautiful art, especially with those particle effects. Battles boast great choreography without resorting to repetition of animations. I love the mech designs, possibly my favourite in all of Gundam. Improves with season 2.

Sound – High

Really, the Gundam series in general has excellent acting in English from Ocean Production studio (Black Lagoon, Death Note, most Gundam dubs). No exception here. I enjoyed the OPs, and the music in general is good, but it doesn’t live up to the likes of Gundam SEED.

Story – Medium

An incredible start to a global conflict, unfortunately, distracted from by side characters brought in too soon and an episode that nukes the fridge in the second act. Too little character conflict and a one-note protagonist weakened my engagement to the individuals.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: A must for fans of Gundam action. Even with a few weak aspects, I found Gundam 00 thoroughly enjoyable for its sharp action and production quality. I watched all episodes within a few days.

(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:

Stellar Voice ActingStunning Art Quality

Negative:

Weak End

Midori Days – Review

Japanese Title: Midori no Hibi

 

Similar: Please Teacher

Toradora!

Hand Maid May

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Length: 13 episodes

 

Positives:

  • The premise of a girlfriend as a right hand is hilarious.
  • Both voice tracks bring a good level of cute energy and hot-headedness to the narrative.

Negatives:

  • Structure is as generic as possible for the genre.
  • Attempts at drama fail miserably – another trait in common with other anime of this type.
  • Introduces the obligatory third wheel love interest of the genre, who does nothing but annoy, and is frankly creepy.

Imagine if you woke up one day and a miniaturised girl replaced your right hand. Well, that’s what happened to seventeen-year-old Seiji, a regular school tough guy, who now has to deal with a girlfriend of the overly attached variety. Seiji never had a girlfriend, for despite being the toughest guy in school, he’s too scary for the girls and keeps striking out. (I guess girls don’t love a bad boy in this world.) She is Midori, a girl who had a secret crush on him and one day wished that she could be his girlfriend. Treguna mekoides trecorum satis dee and swoosh, she’s now his right hand.

Of course, he rebels at first, desperate to undo the change, panicking at what this will do to his gangster rep if others find out. He resorts to bandaging her up and feigning injury. She isn’t powerless however, capable of pulling him by the hand wherever she pleases. After much protest, he accepts his hand’s fate, and they start to work together as hand and host. She does her best to help around the house, cooking and knitting for him, which leads to much hilarity, especially when going out with friends and shopping. Midori Days will make you laugh.

It’s a shame that the drama subplot interferes with the humour. The main drama thread is Midori’s real body; she’s in coma back at her family estate where her mother weeps over her body. This leads to nothing of importance and feels as though it was included to have something there to explain her side of the story, which is passable at least. On the other hand (heh heh), the rest of the drama is just rubbish. There’s a throwaway sub-plot about why he’s a tough guy and how it affects his friends. Worst of all is the drama involving a ten-year-old girl from the neighbourhood. This is where Midori Days enters into creepy territory and not because of the girlfriend for a hand, as I am sure everyone imagines upon hearing the premise. Despite a dozen or so moments of nudity, the core relationship never gets weird, focusing on the comedy rather than the ‘sex’ factor. This ten-year-old however, wants nothing more than to get into pants while she whines endlessly about her stepmother. Shut. Up!

If you enjoyed the likes of Please Teacher then Midori Days is for you. Yes, you will notice the same narrative beats found everywhere in this anime type (sudden appearance; adaptation; little girl crush; high school crush; separation; reconciliation) and it suffers from the same forced drama, but it does have a good amount of humour. Not for kids, of course.

Art – Medium

Standard visuals and animation with nothing terribly bad, and that’s okay for anime of this type.

Sound – Medium

Like the art, the audio is stock standard, except for the protagonists’ voice work. Midori’s voice enhances her cuteness, delivered equally well in both English and Japanese. Seiji’s voice actors are also good, bringing the right energy and hot-tempered attitude to the character. The rest of the cast is adequate (the little girl is an annoying $%&#).

Story – Medium

While the premise is unique and filled with laughs, the rubbish drama can’t help but wrap its hideous tendrils around the narrative.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Watch Midori Days if you are looking for an enjoyable romantic comedy with an interesting premise. Don’t expect much and you won’t be disappointed.

(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:

Charm

Negative: 

ShallowUseless Side Cast

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – Anime Review

Japanese Title: JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken (2012)

 

Related: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (sequel)

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood (old version)

Similar: Fist of the North Star

Gurren Lagann

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Supernatural Vampire Action Adventure

Length: 26 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Humorous melodrama from over the top characters, particularly the villain, Dio.
  • Such MANLINESS.
  • Stylish retro throwback art.
  • Great opening theme for part one.

Negatives:

  • The comedic melodrama lessens the impact of serious moments.
  • The second half is weaker mainly due to a duller villain than the first half.
  • The rules of the supernatural power ‘Hamon’ are poorly established.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure may just be the manliest tale— No, it’s MANLIEST; if your beard doesn’t grow an inch when you say it, then you’re doing it wrong. So, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure may just be the MANLIEST tale ever told in anime. It follows Jonathan Joestar, JoJo for short, and his aristocratic lineage’s fight against a cursed mask that turns humans into vampires, MANLY vampires. 19th century England invaded by manga logic of blocking blades with bare hands, powering up, and sculpted arse cheeks, best sums up JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

The adventure starts with the arrival of Dio, the son of a thief, who helped JoJo’s father years ago. Dio is a douche, a MANLY douche intent on taking over JoJo’s life of luxury. In public, he acts a gentleMAN, but is aggressive and cruel behind the scenes – he burns JoJo’s dog alive – and will do anything for power. Once Dio dons the cursed mask, turning vampire, JoJo makes it his mission to defeat Dio. You really aren’t prepared for the levels of MAN involved in the conflict between JoJo and Dio. Even draining blood is MANLY; rather than the sexy bite to the neck, vampires sink their fingers into one’s flesh like hoses to extract blood. This anime is Gears of War if it embraced its homoeroticism.

They get into fights and have over the top rivalries with smack talk. It works well here because the anime makes its style clear and that you should not take it too seriously. The, let’s be honest, cheerleader of the group, Speedwagon, delivers lines of melodrama even Shakespeare couldn’t dream of. (He and the narrator could do with less telling of the action that we can already see.) Even the tragic moments are overly melodramatic on purpose. This does lessen the impact of serious and emotional scenes, however, which may bother some viewers.

To counter vampirism, heroes can harness the power of ‘Hamon,’ which seems to invent its rules as it goes along. Hamon starts as a Qi-like power that sends out energy waves, but later has magnetic properties and the power of foresight. Huh? This gives the impression that the writer didn’t plan the parameters of the power early in the series. Adding new effects at later stages is fine, but it needs to make sense. If you establish that a character’s superpower is ice control, you can’t add telekinesis out of nowhere. That said, this wasn’t a serious issue, just jarring each time.

My other complaint is the weaker second half when the story jumps two generations to JoJo’s grandson, Joseph Joestar – so, still JoJo – where the new villain isn’t as interesting as Dio. Without the personal connection between hero and villain, I found my engagement slipping, particularly when the narrative beats are so similar between parts one and two. It was still enjoyable, though I would advise against a marathon of both parts in succession. Have a break in between.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is such a campy series that I couldn’t help but enjoy myself. Before I started, I didn’t know much about this anime beyond the supernatural premise in England. I expected a Brothers Grimm sort of adventure; instead, I got the MANLIEST anime in existence.

Art – High

JoJo uses a vibrant colour pallet that changes with the mood and tone of the scene. With turquoise, violet, scarlet, and many more, this anime has more colours than a Mardi Gras parade, suiting its campy style perfectly. The action is heavily stylised through texture, colour blocks, background streaks that don’t look awful (if you can believe it) and audio text, 60s Batman style. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is how you do a retro throwback without looking dated. My only real complaint is the inconsistency of animation; in calm scenes, the animation can be jerky, while it’s much smoother during action.

Sound – High

The audio quality is high in all departments. Of note are the first opening theme and the melodramatic voice acting.

Story – High

A multi-generational story of MANLY MEN fighting the undead with power of MANLINESS. The heroes and first villain are hilarious to watch, flexing at each other in the middle of a fight with more homoeroticism than a Mr Universe contest. I found the first half more engaging than the second.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Watch it unless you dislike exaggerated characters and campiness. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a fun, retro anime that doesn’t take itself too seriously as it flexes its biceps the size of Britain in your face.

(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 OP or ED SequenceStrong Lead Characters

Negative: None

 

Strike the Blood – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Strike the Blood

 

Similar: Blood Lad

Dance in the Vampire Bund

Campione!

A Certain Magical Index

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Supernatural Vampire Action Harem

Length: 24 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Slick visuals and decent music.

Negatives:

  • Bland, forgettable characters.
  • The generic ecchi gets worse the later the episode.
  • The same as every other high school action harem anime.
  • “Monsters.”

In recent years, each anime season seems to have its obligatory high school action harem that’s always a pile of old nonsense, the same tired ecchi jokes and lazy characters. Is Strike the Blood another one such dud? Yes. Review done.

For those still interested, let’s continue. High school student Kojou is the rumoured Fourth Progenitor, an originating entity of the vampire species, and does his best to hide his power and go unnoticed. Charged with keeping him in check, Yukina, a Sword Shaman (who fights with a spear), acts as a guard of sorts to Kojou. They reside in the Demon District manmade island off the coast of Japan where monsters, sorry, “monsters” roam free. When a renegade attacks Yukina one evening, Kojou has no choice but to use his power and they set on the trail of a homunculus.

Over the course of the narrative, several girls join the cast, each personality forgettable, barely given any effort before the next girl is forced onto stage. Even Kojou and Yukina aren’t what I would call developed or structured. Interestingly, nothing interesting happens until the end of the third episode, so why didn’t the writers use that time to establish the protagonists, make us care for them and see glimpses of the greatness they could develop into. How about, instead of giving us Kojou’s rubbish schoolteacher, who is supposed to be 26-years-old but looks like a middle school girl, you put some effort into the damn protagonists, you know, the most important characters of the show. Oh yes, there is also a villain, if you can call a guy whose job extends to wearing a suit and going ‘Hur hur hur, I am evil’ a villain.

Rather than add more conflict and development as the story progresses, the screen time goes to ecchi, the predictable panty shots, breast grabs, compromising situations, etc. You know the drill. Strike the Blood is so desperate to titillate, it resorts to having a lesbian throw herself at Kojou. Don’t worry, implied pedocest isn’t far behind. The ecchi gets worse the longer you watch.

Strike the Blood’s greatest problem is how generic the whole affair is. Everything is standard for the action harem genre. We know how the relationships will go with each girl. We know every twist in the action. We know each character’s personality for the rest of the series within an episode of meeting them, and this never changes.

Strike the Blood feels created to fill a slot for the season, sticking to a safe and easy formula to bang it out the door as easily as possible. This anime clearly had a budget, judging by the visual and audio quality, so why waste it on this? Are any of these high school action harems going to try anything different?

Art – Medium

Strike the Blood boasts nice visuals on a technical level; however, the character design lacks creativity (two unrelated girls look remarkably similar) and their powers aren’t interesting.

Sound – Medium

The acting is fine and the music decent, but there is nothing special to be had here. Still, the audio department doesn’t interfere with the experience.

Story – Low

Like all high school action harems, Strike the Blood follows a standard formula where a guy is special for some reason and a gaggle of girls join the narrative one at a time, ecchi in tow. Forgettable, dime-a-dozen story.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Don’t bother unless you love the genre. Strike the Blood is one of those anime that won’t be remembered in a few years, if it hasn’t already slipped from consciousness, that is. A single original thought would have gone a long way.

(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: None

Negative:

Hollow World BuildingInduces StupidityNo DevelopmentRubbish Major CharactersUseless Side Cast

Karin – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Karin

 

Similar: Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase

Rosario + Vampire

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Vampire Comedy Romance

Length: 24 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Reversal of the nosebleed trope.

Negatives:

  • The joke grows tired before long.
  • Love interest Usui has no personality.
  • Little animation, especially in backgrounds.
  • Subpar voice work regardless of language.

Karin is an unusual vampire. While the rest of her family drinks blood to survive, she produces blood to the point where it bleeds from her nose if she doesn’t feed it to humans. She’s an un-vampire, if you will. Matters complicate when new guy Usui joins the school and she starts producing more blood than usual around him.

When I say Karin has nosebleeds, I mean nose-explosions, nosebleed rainbows, literally. It’s nice to see that it’s the girl with the arousal nosebleed instead of the guy, as is usual; however, it doesn’t feel as though the writer put much thought beyond that into the narrative. You have your gimmick, what next? What makes the two work as a couple? Do they share any interests? Do you have any other jokes? Unfortunately, the answer to these sorts of questions is ‘I didn’t think of that.’

The plot is mostly about keep her blood level in control, hiding her vampirism, and her crush on Usui. There isn’t enough here to carry a story for twenty-six episodes; it would have been better at thirteen like most of these romantic comedies. Also like these budget romantic comedies, they force drama in the last few episodes at the expense of all comedy. While Karin may not be death-by-laughter hilarious, it’s still poor form to change genres in an attempt for emotion at the end. Those last few episodes are Karin’s worst.

I find Karin to be an ultimately forgettable experience. It isn’t the worst anime I have seen but nor does it have anything noteworthy.

Art – Low

Mediocre character design; weird face art with a straight line from chin to nose tip. Minimal animation, as most shots have no more than a character’s mouth moving – budget visuals. Similar situation with the backgrounds using a watercolour style, but since there is no motion it looks like the characters are on a stage, not in the world. Every scene transition uses a tile wipe with the same awful jingle.

Sound – Medium

The dub is quite bad. Karin sounds stilted; when moving from one sentence to another, she often doesn’t pause as though punctuation is missing. Lacks emotion. The mother’s British accent is atrocious. The original Japanese VO isn’t much better with those ear-grating squeaky voices. Repetitive comedy jingles for music.

Story – Low

Having the girl get explosive nosebleeds instead of the guy is a humorous reversal of an overused trope, but Karin’s romance between a vampire girl and a human falls flat under its meandering pace and hollow characters.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Karin may be amusing if you don’t care about depth and just want to watch something that takes no thought. The comedy isn’t strong enough to carry this anime.

(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: None.

Negative:

Ear Grating Voice WorkLacks ConflictPoor PacingUgly Artistic Design