Tag Archives: Yuri

Involves a prominent intimate relationship between females.

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.

(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

Advertisements

Revolutionary Girl Utena – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Shoujo Kakumei Utena

 

Related: Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Adolescence of Utena (alternate version)

Similar: Penguindrum

Kill la Kill

Rose of Versailles

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Fantasy Drama

Length: 39 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Good imagery and world design.
  • Silhouette sisters.
  • The comedy episodes.

Negatives:

  • Overused sequences.
  • Black Rose arc.
  • The villains and their metaphors.
  • The Rose Bride is boring.
  • Too much recap.

(Request an anime for review here.)

I am hesitant to include Rose of Versailles in the ‘Similar’ section above, for it gives false expectations of Revolutionary Girl Utena. I expected Versailles in high school, but really, they share little beyond having tomboy protagonists. I am opposed to you having the same initial expectations that I had.

Revolutionary Girl Utena is a difficult anime to summarise. Not because the blurb is difficult – a tomboy called Utena fights off challengers in duels to protect the Rose Bride – rather, the blurb doesn’t convey what this anime is truly about. The story is a psychological exploration of characters through metaphors – the duels are irrelevant, for the most part, as is the Rose Bride and her ultimate purpose. This is about adolescence and the exploration of the many changes it brings to the young self.

Utena’s initial conflict revolves around her boyish dress sense (not that it should matter when the boys are more feminine than the girls) before she wins a duel against the current “owner” of the Rose Bride, a girl that gives the power to “revolutionise the world” and is unimaginably boring. After this, every day seems to bring a new challenger intent on owning the bride and her power. Here, we see one of Revolutionary Girl’s biggest problems – repetition.

Most episodes in the first two arcs go like the following: episode’s focus character has a desire taken by someone else, gets envious, the dark side seduces, convinces that getting the Rose Bride will fulfil the desire, the focus character challenges Utena, who climbs the duel tower for several minutes, they fight, and Utena wins. The stair climb looks and sounds epic and is better than any transformation sequence, but grows old after its second use out of thirty. The Black Rose Arc (two of four) is particularly egregious.

Furthermore, the duels have bad camerawork and worse choreography. None of the storyboard directors on staff knew how to do action, as evidenced by their credits. On top of using the cliché ‘two swordsmasters dash past each other, pause, one falls’ to end most duels, we never see any real fencing skill. The duels’ one strength is the setting and atmosphere, though sometimes it gets goofy. The goofiest fight has the challenger’s number one fangirl skiing (driving on two side wheels) around the arena in a convertible as more convertibles litter the area like trees. Does it mean anything? Not really – still amusing.

Episodes focused on the school diva break up this repetition with hilarious comedy, which is refreshing. She has a serious brother complex and can’t stand the idea of anyone getting his attention (little does she know…). One episode has this narcissist slowly transform into cow after wearing a cowbell she mistakes for designer jewellery. Another involves fighting a literal boxing kangaroo. I didn’t see that coming.

After the initial setup, the story doesn’t have much progression until the second half when the villains start doing something. Before then, every side character must have all of their angst laid bare, regardless of whether it’s relevant to the plot or not.

Hmm, these villains… Revolutionary Girl Utena leans on metaphor like Florida Man leans on his crutches after having his feet eaten by alligators when streaking. While half the symbolism works, the other half is symbolism for the sake of symbolism that makes no sense, which seems to be the corny villains’ primary purpose. The two main villains talk metaphorically at length while posing for a fan service softcore shoot together. At the opposite end, three women I refer to as the ‘silhouette sisters’ have a scene most episodes that twists moments from famous plays and tales to fit the narrative. Their metaphors are short, tight, and work even if you don’t get the reference.

Much of the symbolism tries to make you think deep thoughts (it’s sex), trying to be clever (it’s sex) at the expense of continuity and character consistency (hint: it means sex). The more obscure the sex symbolism, the worse the result unless it hits the spot. The silhouette sister work with their metaphors because they establish themselves as being a quirky Greek chorus of metaphors, consistent throughout the series. Others, like the villains, enter as one thing and exit as something unrelated for the sake of being artsy. And it doesn’t help that their metaphors are nonsensical, included to be artificially profound. If the writer weren’t possessed by allegory, he could have let the silhouette sisters carry the metaphors alone. They are superior in every way, from presentation to delivery.

Revolutionary Girl Utena has great depth half the time and total nonsense for the other half. Thankfully, the good outweighs the bad and is worth your time. I love the world design (wish we explored more of it), the silhouette sisters are a delight, and Utena is a great character.

A quick note on the movie, The Adolescence of Utena – it’s terrible. The spectacular environments and a personality for the Rose Bride cannot make up for the loss of all subtlety and a finale where Utena morphs into a racecar, participating in a race out of Redline. This ludicrous display must be seen to be believed.

Art – High

Utena has a good amount of motion for cel-drawn anime and an imaginative world. Everything is grand, designed to inspire awe and give the feel of Olympus.

Sound – Medium

The Japanese audio sounds dated and several actors need more training, while the English is weak in weight and delivery for all save a couple of characters – perfectly watchable though. The speed of speech is notably slow at times to match animation. I imagine the voice director often asked for slower retakes. The choral rock gets you pumped (shame it’s for lame duels).

Story – Medium

Tomboy Utena fights off challengers in duels to defend the Rose Bride from those who would use her power for unsavoury goals. Half great and half terrible, the metaphor-laden Revolutionary Girl Utena offers an intriguing anime in an unusual world.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: For fans of heavy metaphor and allegory. Revolutionary Girl Utena is better than the sum of its parts, but requires your patience to hit its stride and reveal its strengths.

(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:

Repetitive

Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Mnemosyne: Mnemosyne no Musume-tachi

 

Similar: Darker than Black

Baccano!

Elfen Lied

The Garden of Sinners

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Action Horror Science Fiction

Length: 6 episodes (45 min. each)

 

Positives:

  • Doesn’t hold back.
  • Story spanning multiple decades.
  • Strong world building.

Negatives:

  • Not enough psychological conflict.
  • First act of most episodes.
  • Main villain has no presence.

(Request an anime for review here.)

One of the reasons I do little research on a title before I watch it is to go in as blind as possible. Sometimes, this method delivers shocking results. I did not expect Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne to be this graphic. And I’m not referring to the amount of violence and sex, but rather the manner in which the story executes these elements. Mnemosyne does not hold back when it comes to adult content. You have been warned.

Mnemosyne centres on Rin, an immortal woman fed a time fruit from the invisible tree Yggdrassil, who runs a private investigation agency alongside partner Mimi. Their job takes a turn when a search for a lost cat leads to amnesiac Koki and someone murdering these immortal women.

Most interesting in Mnemosyne is the structure, in that each episode takes place in a different decade. We start in the 90s and hop through the decades, seeing how society changes each instance, with the latter episodes set beyond our time and in the genre of science fiction. As such, the world building leaps forward each era – new global events in the background, technological advancements, aging mortals, etc. I particularly like how after a devastating earthquake, Tokyo’s depressed population retreats into a virtual reality of human indulgence. The people are so taken by the virtual that the real world is designated ‘Version 1.0’ – a launch version of the program, if you will. These are good world building details.

While the world evolves well across the years, I cannot say the same for the characters. Now, these characters aren’t bad, not at all. A core of the story is about how the immortal women don’t change while their mortal acquaintances die around them. Unfortunately, Rin and co. don’t react much to these changes. How much more interesting would it be to see a psychological toll for having such an existence? Or perhaps how they stay sane? Ironically, despite all the brutality, the story doesn’t push its characters far enough in the neglected psychological component.

The physical themes of sex and violence – two basic human instincts – have impact, certainly. The two sometimes (often) mix into some extreme form of BDSM – torture, mutilation, eroticism, bits missing, naked bodies, the full monty. The blood angels hunting Rin lure immortal women with the human instinct of lust, granting a state of ecstasy before devouring them. Mnemosyne is bold with its sexuality and not ashamed of it. Interestingly, none of this is gratuitous. Yes, they could have cut away before the graphic material starts and dropped down to a lower age rating tier, but the violence and sex drive the plot and characters of this supernatural world. These elements and the plot type give this anime a vampire fiction-esque feel.

Mnemosyne’s story problems lie in the first act of most episodes. The writing needs work in linking Rin with the key character introduced each episode. For example, in the first episode, after leaving the scene of a truck accident, she runs into Koki and helps, responds, and acts towards this stranger as though he’s a close friend. Her actions aren’t believable – nor is his response. The writers needed to get these two together and didn’t think of a proper way to do it. This happens consistently. Funny enough, each episode consistently improves in the same way after the first act as well. Flawed, but consistent. How odd.

Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne is so close to being great. Its good points have strength, but the weak parts are significant enough to hold it back. The characters needed that extra emotional push, and a main villain with more presence than minor antagonists would have assuredly helped. Even so, this anime engaged me to the end.

Art – Medium

The art is good – strong imagery – but could do with more animation and a touch more gothic. And get rid of the Photoshop filter used in flashbacks – looks cheap.

Sound – High

Mnemosyne has great acting in both versions and music that evolves with the times.

Story – Medium

In a world of sex and violence, the immortal Rin investigates attacks against her fellow immortal women through the ages. While engaging (and brutal), Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne doesn’t give the emotional side enough focus to match the physical.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne is hard to find an audience for with the extreme sadism, but if you don’t mind that, it’s worth a try. Give it two episodes at least.

(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:

Holy S***

Negative: None

Yurikuma Arashi – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Yuri Kuma Arashi

 

Similar: Penguindrum

Bakemonogatari

Princess Tutu

Revolutionary Girl Utena

Humanity has Declined

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Yuri Drama Psychological Fantasy

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Some absurd humour.
  • Pleasant visuals and music.
  • Ends well.

Negatives:

  • Constant flashbacks muddle the structure.
  • Overreliance on symbolism hinders rather than deepens the plot.

Lesbian bears hunting schoolgirls. That’s all you need to know about Yuri Kuma Arashi. Or it would be if it weren’t a work by Kunihiko Ikuhara, known for his heavy use of symbolism in the likes of Revolutionary Girl Utena and Penguindrum. Yuri Kuma Arashi is simultaneously much better than I was expecting, yet not as good as it could have been.

When you, reader, requested I review a yuri series to accompany the Yuri Manga Guide, I would have thought it would be some vanilla yuri, not this. Yuri Kuma Arashi takes place in a world where a magic meteor gave bears intelligence and they attacked humanity. After countless deaths, bear and human came to an accord, whereby a wall would separate the two species. Peace settled.

Our story starts with two girls transferring into an all-girls’ school, only, these new students are actually bears taken human form. A bear mauled Kureha’s mother and she has since found comfort in her lover Sumika. When Sumika too dies from a bear attack, Kureha swears to hunt down the animals responsible. Did I mention these bears look not like grizzlies but closer to teddy bears?

Lewdness peppers every second scene, but since all we see are stuffed teddies, they get away with it on TV. We all know what’s really going on when Lulu has her head in Ginko’s crotch from behind. Instead of girls going down on each other, they replace a girl’s “nether petals” with petals of a lily (called ‘yuri’ in Japanese) coated in honey. Very subtle.

If all this sounds strange to you, don’t worry you’re not alone. Yuri Kuma has this odd tone with lesbian teddy bears drooling over schoolgirls – can never be sure if they are eating the girl or “eating” the girl – set in a world where mauling is common and having children complicit in murder is ordinary. You see, the bears aren’t the biggest threat anymore. The committee ‘Invisible Storm’ has the task of ferreting out bears in school, no matter who dies in the process, especially those who deviate from the “democratic” decisions. It gives this horror school vibe akin to Another without any gore. (The mauling is adorable – no joke.)

As Kureha searches for answers to the mysterious deaths of classmates, the story becomes darker. The first third leans heavily towards comedy, more or less what you think of with the pitch “Lesbian bear schoolgirls.” The second act descends into the core theme of individualism – the self vs. the group – and humour evaporates. This is where Yuri Kuma falls hardest.

It tries too hard with symbolism and metaphors (not the sexual kind) when telling the story and conveying character. It draws parallels between how a girl with a gun and a girl with claws aren’t so different, but obfuscates the message in convoluted dialogue. Furthermore, it repeats this message, along with the individual vs. group allegory, several times throughout the act. It’s as though the writer wanted to be absolutely sure you understood the subtext. Just pound that in. The allegory takes centre stage instead of what the allegory is supposed to lead to. Imagine a celebrity advocating against poverty that really just makes it about themselves, not those who need help.

Allegory for allegory’s sake.

The worst part is how it tells rather than shows the allegories – one step away from telling you the allegory’s meaning. It’s ironic; Yuri Kuma wants to be subtle about its message, but by overemphasising the allegory, all subtlety is mauled away. As a result, I found it difficult to invest myself in the conflict. It lacks grounding. There is little room left after all the allegories. And it has more flashbacks than Naruto. Granted, the flashbacks matter, but they don’t help the disjointed structure.

Lastly, the third act has more focus, showing the allegory without a single instance of grinding it against your face. That’s right, act two is largely useless. Act one, act three, good, I enjoyed them. Act two even at four episodes felt a year long.

At the very least, Yuri Kuma Arashi is interesting. It may not succeed in half of what it sets out to do, yet the unusual approach to bullying and individualism warrant a chance from the audience. My fans have some weird requests; it’s always fun to watch something I would have never considered.

Art – High

The cute art matches the tone of the girls, who are cute without relying on moe trash. I loved the imagery reminiscent of Bakemonogatari’s great art. It does however reuse animation too often.

Sound – Medium

The OP sums up the show rather well – a girl trying to talk dirty in sultry whispers riddled with innuendo. I am pleased they didn’t give the girls baby voices and I must give the actors credit for performing with absolute seriousness. The script could do with less quirk – “Gao, Gao (growl)” Bear shock!” “Sexy!” “Shabadadoo” “Deliciousmell” – and more substance.

Story – Medium

A girl seeks to avenge the death of her mother at the paws of lesbian bear-girls. A wacky premise bogged down by overuse of allegory and metaphor – the ending saves it. Still engaging for the most part.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. If the quirk is for you, you may find enjoyment in Yuri Kuma Arashi.

(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: None

Sweet Blue Flowers – Review

Japanese Title: Aoi Hana (Not to be confused with Ano Hana)

 

Similar: Maria Watches Over Us

Whispered Words

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Yuri Romance

Length: 11 episodes.

 

Positives:

  • Nice backgrounds.

Negatives:

  • Terrible characters void of meaningful emotion in empty relationships.
  • Mary-Sue character praised as a goddess.
  • Stiff animations.
  • Lifeless voice work delivers unnatural dialogue.
  • Dull start, middle, and end.
  • Repetitive music.
  • Thinks Wuthering Heights is good.

Even with all the above, one still can’t grasp the drivel that is Sweet Blue Flowers. It’s so bad that I wonder how a studio green lit this loathsome rubbish. One look at the script would turn even the most novice of readers into twitching masses of ooze from the sputum this show vomited all over them.

It’s supposed to be about the budding romance and troubled relationships of teenage lesbian girls, yet it is so far from it; oh, you have no idea. The lead characters are supposed to be Fumi the spineless, and her brunette childhood friend, Akira, who is a friendly girl and stands up for others. I say supposed to be because a supporting character, what’s-her-name, girl with short black hair, Mary-Sue… She is in the anime more than Akira and at least as much, if not more so, than Fumi.

Fumi suffers heartbreak when her cousin marries a man. They were in a secret sexual relationship, but this cousin must be at least five years older for her to be getting married – remember, Fumi is about fifteen at this point and we are never told how long ago this relationship started. To get over it, Fumi falls instantly in love with Mary-Sue wench, they break-up after what is supposed to pass for a relationship, and we are now almost done with the show. I can’t spoil anything, for nothing happens! They fall in ‘serious’ love, have empty conversations, looking dead all the while, split for…what amounts to nothing, and act heartbroken. Again, act, because it’s so lifeless and pathetic that I experienced more emotion playing Hearts on the computer while watching this. (Gah, Queen of Spades on second clubs drop!)

Meanwhile, Akira does…nothing. Every girl in two neighbouring all-girls schools (one of them Catholic) turn lesbian for bitchy Mary-Sue wench – I jest you not, she’s a total jackass, even to the girl she ‘loves,’ and still everyone wets their knickers at the sight of her. You are told that she’s oh-so-amazing at everything, but it’s never shown. Even her family, who are high-society, don’t raise a single objection when their daughter announces she’s a lesbian nor do they have a problem with her trying to have an affair with her teacher – of course they don’t care that the teacher and seventeenish-year-old bitchy Mary-Sue trull-wench see each other regularly at school either. Oh yes, she did move away, after rumours started, all the way to – drum-roll please – next door!

We still aren’t done. It’s perfectly normal for fifteen-year-old catholic school girls to be engaged to adult men. What was that? I just made that up? No, even the school acknowledges this. In the advertisement for the school play of the vomit inducing novel Wuthering Heights, it states that the only males who can attend must be family or fiancés of the girls. Nothing is addressed, nothing is questioned; just like the farcical relationships, we see no conflict. No one has a problem with anything, no matter how sordid – especially if it involves bitchy demimondaine Mary-Sue trull-wench.

Look, the problem has nothing to do with them being lesbians. The truth is that no one, not even a lesbian herself, would give no reaction to their daughter being one (never mind the affair with a teacher). It’s out of the norm. You don’t bring in such subject matter without giving the attention and conflict it deserves. It’s pathetic. This reminds me of tokenism, where a minority or gay guy is forced into a plot to give the illusion of being progressive, when in reality it is nothing more than insulting.

So what do they do if not overcome conflict? Nothing, in fact…the dialogue is mere filler on irrelevant rubbish such as the school’s value on height and how it makes you tough, for some reason. (Don’t look at me, I don’t get it either.) Not a single conversation is natural. It’s all so rigid and slow like these girls have trouble understanding a word spoken. The girls cry at the drop of a hat. We have no real characters, little personality and no depth. The most exciting event for them is seeing the school chapel and tearoom.

Voice work is just as stimulating with its monotone drones, sad sack vocals and unnatural speech. Only Akira differs, but is still bland. Most scenes have no music, making the dialogue feel even slower…

Sweet Blue Flowers does not have a gram of potential. In the end, we are left with atrocious characters, no development, nothing redeemable, and let’s not forget, super bitchy demimondaine Mary-Sue trull-wench.

Art – Medium

A filter of mist hangs over to give this anime a faded look. While the backgrounds look nice in colour sketch art, they have no movement to them with immobile characters – no nod, no moving mouth in speech, no waver of wind, nothing. Something as simple as a shift in light and shadow on trees when they rustle could have been a huge improvement. Characters don’t even project shadows (a patch the size of your foot doesn’t count).

Sound – Very Low

Music consists of slow piano pieces – a few tracks or many, not sure, since they all sound the same. String instruments occasionally take over, but they don’t add another layer. Dead acting.

Story – Very Low

What more is there to say?

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Not worth your time in the least. Sweet Blue Flowers is eleven episodes too long. Forget I ever mentioned it.

(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:

Atrocious PlotAwful DialogueInduces StupidityLacks ConflictMary SueNo DevelopmentRubbish Major CharactersShallowTorture MusicUseless Side Cast