Tag Archives: Supernatural

Contains elements beyond the means of reality and science, yet still in our world.

Noblesse – Anime Review

Korean Title: Noblesse

 

Related: Noblesse: The Beginning of Destruction (prequel – included in review)

Similar: Hellsing Ultimate

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

Castlevania

 

Watched in: Japanese & Korean

Genre: Supernatural Action Fantasy

Length: Two 30-minute movies

 

Positives:

  • Makes you want to read the manhwa.
  • Well-choreographed action.
  • Bloody good powers.

Negatives:

  • Awakening is just the opening chapter.
  • Production issues in Beginning of Destruction.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Noblesse (French for nobility), based on the popular manhwa webtoon of the same name, has received two short film adaptions, seemingly as a test for the reception of a full series. The first film, Noblesse: The Beginning of Destruction, tells the story of Raizel the Noblesse Vampire and werewolf lord Muzaka in medieval Europe as humans wage war around them, ending in the tragic falling out of these two friends. I assume this is a flashback volume from the manhwa selected as a self-contained story. Noblesse: Awakening is the proper start of the saga, where Raizel awakens from an 820-year slumber to find an unfamiliar modern world. He seeks out Frankenstein, loyal servant and current school principal, for help and ends up attending the school to learn modern life from his human classmates, who soon come under threat from other supernatural entities.

I have good and bad news about Noblesse. The good news? What we have of the series here is strong – I am excited for more. The bad news? That’s all there is in anime form (for now, hopefully) and we have to turn to the manhwa for the rest, which isn’t complete either.

While Awakening is a strong start, it truly is the mere first 2-3 episodes rushed to fit in as much as possible in 30 minutes. We see a bit of every key scene in setting up a larger story. Raizel awakens, meets Frankenstein, goes to class, makes friends against his will in a hilarious scene believing chopsticks are stakes and the garlic in kimchi is to poison him, and then the other vampires capture his friends for the climactic fight. Without having read the manhwa, I would wager it takes more time with these scenes. Still, they do work fine in the anime.

I like Raizel. He is the definition of a Korean drama protagonist. Let me tell you about Korean dramas one day – they’re plenty of fun. For now, the first rule is that the male lead must be tall, slender, handsome, and even a bit effeminate (middle-aged Korean ladies go nuts for that). Bonus points if he is emotionally reserved. Raizel barely speaks throughout both films with maybe 10 lines in Beginning of Destruction. However, he isn’t dull like Kaname, the aloof vampire of Vampire Knight – at least, not in what I’ve seen so far. His inner monologue, as present in the lunch scene, and his imposing manner give him character. When he has to make a hard choice in Beginning of Destruction, you can feel his pain conveyed in few words and facial expressions.

He’s overpowered as hell, though not without consequences. His blood magic looks great, particularly in the prequel.

Speaking of, Beginning of Destruction is the better of the two films when watched as is, owed due to the completeness of the arc. It does have lower production values, however, and I could only find it in Korean, which did work well. This story takes its time with the scenes, giving us enough to connect with the werewolf lord and the human girl he protects before the action starts. The action itself is well choreographed in both films and has a surprising amount of story weight for such little runtime.

Noblesse needs more episodes to deliver its potential, which I hope to see very soon. This is one of few anime adaptions I desire.

Art – High

The prequel may have average production values, but Awakening looks great and oozes style that is classically manhwa. Good animation for the engaging action.

Sound – Medium

The acting is solid. However, the music in Awakening feels generic, as if it not made for this anime but bought from a stock library. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the budget is responsible.

Story – Medium

An ancient vampire awakens to a modern world he doesn’t recognise and must learn of society and technology. The prequel shows his final moments before sleep over 800 years ago. Noblesse sets up a promising story that demands completion.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Hmm…I don’t like recommending incomplete work. If you fall in love and have to suffer the agonising wait for more, was it worth starting at all? Either wait or watch Noblesse and begin the manhwa.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: N/A

Negative:

Incomplete

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Ajin: Demi-Human – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Ajin

 

Related: Ajin: Demi-Human 2nd Season (included in review)

Ajin Movies (old version)

Similar: Parasyte –the maxim-

Tokyo Ghoul

Elfen Lied

Scryed

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Action Horror

Length: 26 episodes (2 seasons), 3 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Starts well.
  • Fast pace.
  • Interesting immortality mechanics.

Negatives:

  • Villains try far too hard.
  • Allegiance flipping.
  • CG still needs work.
  • Poor dialogue.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Ajin: Demi-Human is one of Netflix’s first anime commissions and most known for its use of CG characters. Before you flinch, the CG isn’t anywhere near the level of Berserk 2016. For one, keeping the environments in 2D was a wise decision. The characters still don’t look great, mind you. The problem with CG characters is that parts of the model are too smooth, such as the mouth, and the smooth animation later chopped to 24 frames-per-second doesn’t blend well. In 2D animation, the mouth will jump from one position to the next – perhaps with an ‘in-between’ position – but in CG, the mouth moves from start-frame to end-frame in a smooth motion, which doesn’t look right. It’s smooth, yet choppy at the same time. For a look at how to use CG for 2D animation, I cannot recommend this video enough on how they did the graphics for Guilty Gear Xrd (skip to 33:55 if you don’t want to watch the full hour).

The CG will likely prejudice most anime fans, not giving the rest of the series a chance. But let’s imagine you don’t mind the CG – what of the story?

Ajin: Demi-Human revolves around humans called ‘Ajin’ that can regenerate, paralyse with a scream, and summon Black Ghosts to vanquish enemies. Humanity fears their powers. To be an Ajin is to live in perpetual hiding, hated by all. Upstanding student Kei walks in front of a truck one day, only to get up from a pool of his blood to see black matter issuing from his skin. He is an Ajin. And so starts his life on the run, distrustful of everyone around him and with nowhere to go. However, an old friend comes to his aid.

The story starts strong, pitching us headfirst into the Ajin situation with intense action and tension as everyone and their mum wants Kei. Not dead, funnily enough, because the bounty for capture is immense and there is the whole matter of immortality.

On the opposing team, we have government worker Tosaki and his secretly Ajin partner working to control the superhuman threat. He tries too hard to sound tough. When witnessing Ajin immortality experimentation through torture at a research facility, he threatens his partner to do as he says or this would happen to her, even though she already does anything he wants. What’s the point of the threat? He also sabotages the research organisation for reason that don’t make much sense in an attempt, I assume, to paint him as tough and independent.

However, this is nothing compared to the true villain, Sato the old man Ajin. Every line out of this guy is bravado and metaphors about war and video games. Never have I seen a series want you to find a villain intimidating so badly, yet keep failing and trying with the next scene. He could have been interesting with his manipulation of Kei, turning him against humanity, and his acts for Ajin rights and compassion from the public. Sadly, the bravado overpowers it all. Season 2 is particularly bad for this.

As for Kei, he’s an average protagonist without much personality going for him. He also can’t seem to decide on his motivations and allegiances. For example, when Sato is breaking him out of the research facility, Kei switches to protecting the researchers from Sato, who wants to kill them all. These people just tore his teeth out, severed his fingers, and drilled his skull for ten days and he instantly wants to help them? The first thing one researcher says is a promise to get him back on the torture slab! Kei isn’t a smart kid despite his intensive studying (what a shocker).

Even with all of these problems, Ajin: Demi-Human is never boring thanks to its fast pace and conflict against the world. It’s much better than the CG gives it credit for.

Art – Low

Ajin’s mix of CG characters and 2D backgrounds looks much better than the likes of Berserk 2016, yet still has a long way to go.

Sound – Low

The villains’ dialogue needs an overhaul and different actors. Season 2 OP and ED are torture. The rest of the music is good however – intense.

Story – Low

Kei develops superpowers marked as one of the ‘Ajin’, which turns humanity against him. A strong start veers off course into a second season dominated by a rubbish villain that tries too hard.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Try it. Most viewers won’t give Ajin: Demi-Human a try due to the CG, but the intense man vs. world story is entertaining enough.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Awful Dialogue

Canaan – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Canaan

 

Similar: Black Lagoon

Darker than Black

Madlax

Noir

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Action

Length: 13 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Decent action.
  • No glaring detractions.

Negatives:

  • Protagonist could be more interesting.
  • Some poor understanding of people’s reactions.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Photojournalist Maria and her partner are in Shanghai on the hunt for a juicy story. They happen upon more than they wished for when at a festival a man stumbles about, as if assaulted on all senses, and cries out before his eyes explode with blood. Gunfire rings throughout the festival. Out of nowhere, an old friend called Canaan comes to Maria’s aid. She has been working as a mercenary and is trailing a sinister organisation that intends to release a zombie-like virus. Since they want Maria dead as well, Canaan has no choice in protecting her friend if she is to keep her alive and unmask the enemy.

What we have here is a typical entry in the ‘gun girls’ anime genre, which was rather popular in the noughts (2000s? 00s?) for featuring largely female casts, a brooding protagonist, and many guns. Canaan is no different. Its main differentiating factor is the inclusion of light supernatural powers in several characters. For example, Canaan can combine her senses to give radar capabilities and mechanical hacking thanks to her synaesthesia (not how this condition works, at all, but what do you expect from Type-Moon’s research?) Another woman can kill with the sound of her voice. She has an interesting subplot and is one of the few mute/quiet anime characters that doesn’t come across as flat. The titular character herself could do with more dimension. Canaan lacks that certain something – fun, probably – which makes Revy from Black Lagoon a joy to watch. Her growing relationship with Maria prevents her from being a total bore, and it is a nice change to have a concrete yuri element rather than the vague hints from other gun girl anime.

Canaan does try to get all deep on us with metaphorical dialogue on occasion, which accomplishes nothing but demonstrate why you shouldn’t throw random nonsense into your script. The harm is minimal, in this case. I find the exposition worse, such as the very first line that has a narrator force information for our sakes.

Lastly, the action is equally typical of the genre. Don’t expect the insanity of Black Lagoon and you won’t be disappointed – the powers add a nice dimension. Small incidents will make you question logic, like why anyone would believe automatic gunfire is part of the festival dragon dance. They can see the guns! I think this was an attempt at heightening the action set piece, like adding a fruit stand to a car chase.

Is Canaan still worth it after all this time? It is unremarkable, but not bad either. Fans of the genre will know exactly what they’re in for, while everyone else should look elsewhere.

Art – Medium

Character designs are of the era for more mature series, yet not ‘literary’ mature like Monster. The environments are suitably grungy.

Sound – Medium

The acting is good and I enjoy the ethereal ending song.

Story – Medium

A photojournalist finds herself caught up in a plot to release a virus, but an old friend comes to the rescue. Canaan is one of the better ‘gun girls’ anime thanks to some interesting powers and enough movement in the plot to keep things engaging.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For action fans. It’s simple: if you enjoy action with gun-toting women, Canaan is for you.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

FLCL – Anime Review

Japanese Title: FLCL

 

Related: FLCL 2 (TBR)

Similar: Excel Saga

The Tatami Galaxy

Kill la Kill

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Action Comedy

Length: 6 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Good animation.

Negatives:

  • LOL random!
  • Haruko is annoying.
  • So bloody boring.
  • All noise, no substance.
  • The dub is the worst. THE WORST!

(Request an anime for review here.)

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.

(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:

Fluid Animation

Negative:

IncoherentNot FunnyRubbish Major CharactersShallow

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]

Note: Not to be confused with the old Unlimited Blade Works movie

 

Related: Fate/stay night (source – visual novel)

Fate/stay night (anime – alternate 1st arc)

Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel (alternate 3rd arc)

Fate/Zero (prequel)

Similar: The Future Diary

Basilisk

Darker than Black

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy Action

Length: 25 episodes (2 seasons), 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Stylish action.
  • Huge improvement over the visual novel.
  • Heroic Spirits have interesting backstories.

Negatives:

  • Fights lack substance.
  • Still has exposition and explanations in excess.
  • Villains let heroes live on a whim.
  • Doesn’t stick to its own rules.

(Request an anime for review here.)

We last left the franchise in the Fate/stay night visual novel, a mess of an artwork mired in exposition, sloppy writing, and worse sex. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works adapts the second arc of the visual novel, with Rin instead of Saber as the romance option and Archer taking the Heroic Spirit spotlight.

Protagonist Shirou summons Saber to participate in the Holy Grail War against other magi and their servants. By a matter of convenience, he teams up with Rin and her servant Archer.

The genericity of Shirou hasn’t changed. He’s your goody two-shoes harem protagonist but with a hero complex to make him an action harem protagonist. His plot armour from arc one makes less sense this time, and he becomes instantly powerful before the end – I believe they call this an ‘ass pull’ – and as such, is the worst holdover from the source material.

Thanks to a dramatic cut in exposition and filler scenes, Rin doesn’t wear out her welcome, though she is still an average tsundere with more stereotype than brains. She whines too much. The romance with her, though irrelevant to the plot, has no foundation (the horrendous sex scenes were seamlessly cut). Unlimited Blade Works is actually about Archer and his backstory, as Fate was Saber and her history.

Like before, the suspense comes from the Heroic Spirit’s identity, even more so with Archer because of his amnesia. I am torn on the result. On one hand, the backstory itself is a great idea, yet on the other, the present day component – the consequence of the backstory, if you will – is garbage. I can’t help but feel that Unlimited Blade Works would have been superior if it only had to take inspiration from the source, not the beat-for-beat story.

That said, this anime is an improvement in every area. Yes, it could do with less explaining of mechanics when it shows them later anyway, and moments of describing actions before doing them drool off the visual novel, but this is still so much better. You can’t imagine without having played the game.

With all the visual improvements, I am disappointed that the fights aren’t smarter. This anime often receives the name ‘Unlimited Budget Works’ for all the animation and effects it has, but as anyone who’s watched a Michael Bay film will tell you, effects don’t make great action. Fights look good, sure, but they aren’t smart. How rarely anyone kills a weak mage while their servant is away in battle. Villains allow good guys to walk away despite impressing upon us the victory condition of killing all other mages. It isn’t just one villain – several villains do this. It’s as though the author couldn’t think for more than two seconds about plausible scenarios for characters to escape. How many times now has it been, in anime, where the premise is about fighting to the death, yet doesn’t happen?

Each subsequent fight is less interesting than the previous. The tension wanes when you realise consequences aren’t what they promised. The hype lies. Rin tells us that Berserker will wreck everyone in a fight, yet the fight against him is incongruent with her words. The author again didn’t spare a thought to finding a creative solution in beating a seemingly invincible opponent. I mentioned inconsistencies between arcs in the VN review, which we can see in effect here, as Berserker was conveniently stronger in the first arc when the author needed to kill another character. The rule breaking is still alive and well.

Why are the masters kids when an adult mage would crush them? It’s also convenient that all the mages connect to Shirou in some way – another source material problem. Honestly, 90% of the problems in Unlimited Blade Works stem from the visual novel. With a little extra thought, a little extra planning, a little better dialogue, this could have been a great anime.

What does Fate/stay night look like without the lead weight of the visual novel? Find out next time in the Fate/Zero review.

Art – High

I love the triadic colour palette of red, blue, and bright yellow. Its vibrancy pops in motion – gone is the ‘OC, don’t steal’ character art. Great looking fights use CG and particle effects, though often at the expense of substance. Occasional bad CG such as the skeletons slaps your eyes.

Sound – High

The voice work is good, but I’m not a fan of several casting choices in English. The music complements proceedings, except OPs and EDs seem out of place.

Story – Medium

Seven mages summon seven Heroic Spirits of myth and history to fight for the Holy Grail. This is arc two of Fate/stay night, focused on Rin and Archer instead of Saber. Unlimited Blade Works salvages the best parts of the visual novel to create an entertaining, if not deep, action anime.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For anime action fans. If you love anime’s signature action of one-on-one fights then you will love Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, when able to overlook the story and writing problems. It isn’t necessary to watch the first arc unless you’re interested in Saber. Watch Fate/Zero first.

(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:

Fluid Animation

Negative:

No DevelopmentWeak End