I might have said this about previous weeks, but this hasn’t been my week for writing. Various reasons, none of which I’m going into here, save that once again the world is safe from rabid stuffed alligators and once again I’m not getting enough pay for the job.
Or pay at all, come to that.
Really have to talk to someone about that.
In any case, I’ve found myself a new anime obsession, Assassination Classroom, the story of an octopus like creature who’s only desire is to teach a class. A desire that, once fulfilled, will leave him to destroy the Earth. Unless his beloved class can kill him first.
It is, to keep it quick, a hoot. I’m about five episodes in and have been having a blast with Koro-sensei (the yellow guy to the right) and his students. Like One Punch Man (currently my favorite anime OF ALL TIME), it takes what I’d have thought to be a single joke premise and gives it a wonderful amount of depth. Deeply entertaining. It’s taking most of my will not to binge through it like I did with Voltron.
I’m making my way through the series Mobile Suit Gundam. It’s one of the Big Names in anime and, as I had access to it through Crunchyroll, I felt it past time to educate myself on the matter.
I’m not going to rattle on about it too much at this time beyond the following two observations.
One: I think that had I caught this as a kid, I would have loved it to death. Right now I’m grooving fairly well, liking all the characters save one, which we’ll be talking about shortly.
Watching this, I get a distinct Robotech/Macross vibe. Which is if anything the reverse of the way it should be put, given Gundamcame first, but that’s beside the point. What I mean is that in many ways it feels like I’m watching a show I loved in childhood, which is an interesting feeling considering I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen it before.
All of this is a wordy way of saying that I like the show.
However it’s not all skittles and beer, which brings us to Two. Among the characters is one Kai Shiden. Kai, not to put too fine a point on it, is obnoxious. Every word out of his mouth is something snide, selfish and/or cowardly. Almost from his first appearance I’ve been actively rooting for something untoward to happen to him. Like him being covered in fire ants, or maybe him being forced to watch Manos the Hand of Fate on loop for hours.
It came to a sort of head in Episode Seven, it happened. Kai was sitting there in his chair, being his snide self. I watching, frowning, wishing bad things upon the man.
Then IT happened. Out of the blue:
Immediate, immense satisfaction. Tears came to my eyes. This can’t happen enough, frankly. If I have any complaints about this show, it’s that this doesn’t happen once an episode.
15-year-old Kōichi Sakakibara should be heading towards his final year of junior high in a brand new school, joining Grade 9 Class 3 Unfortunately he suffers from a collapsed lung. Things turn out alright for him, but it means missing a month of school.
Once there, he discovers something odd. There is this girl wearing an eye patch that no one wants to talk about. Who comes and goes without even the teacher making comment on it. As he spotted her while leaving the hospital, he decides he wants to talk with her. Which proves to be the worse mistake in his young life.
See, twenty six years earlier Grade 9 Class three had this student. Super popular, super nice. Only she dies before the year ends. Something that devastates the whole class.
So great is the sorrow involved with this death, that when one of the students proclaims the dead student is still alive, still in the class room in fact, that everyone else goes along with the idea. They keep her seat open, talk about her as if she was there, the whole bit. The principal even sets up a seat for her at graduation.
At the graduation, they take a picture of the whole class. And wouldn’t you know it, but the dead student is right there, sitting there smiling with her classmates.
This would be a nice, creepy story, except there’s more to it than that. The next year something bad happens. And the year after that. And so on. Until finally one of the students of Grade 9 Class 3 discovers the very simple rule that can keep the class safe.
Unfortunately for Kōichi he just broke that rule. In doing so, he has plunged the current Grade 9 Class 3 into a world of terror and paranoia…
The above set up covers the first episode of Anazā/Another, more or less. To tell more than that is… well, I have another site for that. In any case, it’s worth seeking out if you’re a fan of Japanese Horror or Horror in general.
This would be a pretty poor review without some more comment on my part, so let me add the following observations in bullet form:
It’s nice to watch an anime that doesn’t sex up the female characters. After Asura Cryingand High School of the Dead (which I couldn’t even watch one episode of, sorry), it comes as something of a relief.
This is some of the most grueling Horror I’ve witnessed since… well, since Corpse Party. You might not think animation could do that to you, but ha ha that’s so wrong.
I will admit some shouting at the computer monitor while watching the second to last episode. The characters screw up big time. However after so many pitch perfect episodes, I gave it a pass.
This, I think, hits my ideal for Horror. Bad things happening to good people. The protagonist know something is wrong and try to stop it. And it’s grim. Boy, is it ever.
Apparently there is a novel and a movie based on this story. Something that Mr. Waters intends to check up on as soon as he can.
Amusingly, the first few episodes name check American horror writers such as Stephen King (of course), John Saul, and the one and only H. P. Lovecraft. It’s almost as if there were no Horror authors over in Japan that could have been named…
The series is currently at Crunchyroll and you will have to sign up there to watch beyond the second episode due to the overall nastiness of what happens. If that ain’t your bag, hopefully it’ll come out of Japan in the fullness of time. I think it’s worth checking out.
(The above links head to over places. If you want further blatherings from me, click the following links, one for the anime Asura Cryin’, the other for the PSP title Corpse Party (among other things).)
Four episodes. Four times as many as Desert Punk got (har har). Surely not enough to give Asura Cryin’ the review it most likely deserves. But I’m done with it all the same.
Here is what the series is about, I think, in a nutshell. A couple of years back there was an incident that killed Tomoharu Natsume’s childhood friend, Misao Minakami. However this doesn’t mean their relationship has ended, as Miaso has become a ghost and now hangs around Tomoharu pretty much full time.
The series proper begins with the two of them starting a new life on their own, living in Tomoharu’s old place. Their two days there involves being given a suit case from a friend of said brother, being attacked by a supernatural shrine maiden, attacked by religious zealots and humanoid demons, rescued by what seems to be a bodacious cyborg, and Tomoharu becoming a “handler” for a giant robot that crawls out of what looks like liquid shadow. Which, incidentally, possesses the still living (but perhaps not conscious) body of Misao, who our Hero now hopes to free from her prison.
If that sounds like a whole mess of plots slammed together, well yeah. Yeah it is. See there are various forces in the world struggling to maintain order. The religious zealots want to kill the demons (mainly because they are demons and thus evil), the cyborg’s group wants to protect the demons for reasons not made clear in the first four episodes, and the demons want… I dunno. They have to want something. Maybe it gets explained in episode five or something.
But here’s the thing: I don’t care.
Four episodes. I’ve given this thing four episodes, and I still feel lost at sea, without a hint of land. Because no one takes any time out to explain anything. They’re too busy jumping to the next “cool” sequence or your typical Anime nonsense.
For instance, when exactly does this series take place? As far as I can see, it’s a modern day affair. Yet when an arsenal of guns start popping out of the cyber-chick’s various limbs, Misao and Tomoharu hardly blink. Bear in mind that on every other aspect of the story so far neither one of them seems to have an inkling on what’s going on.
Now if one wants to get technical, there have been some hints that Tomoharu might know more than he remembers, but come on! Drop the viewer a bone.
I don’t mind not understanding what the hell is going on. Really. I don’t. I’ve watched The Big O for years and I’m still not sure of what half of it actually means.
Or maybe three fourths. It’s hard to say with Big O.
But with that, you had four main characters, a clearly defined premise, and stories that, as a rule, were no more than two episodes in length.
Here I’m four episodes in and the series is introducing new concepts while still not dealing with the old ones yet. There are too many ideas on display all at once, and on that too many characters with too many motives and no sign that any of it will be explained.
You can have a ton of complex plots, but without a place to stand all it is is sound and fury. As far as I can see Asura Cryin’ gives the view no foothold four episodes in, when, quiet frankly, such a thing should have been in place by the second episode at the latest.
Then there’s this:
This is from episode three. By this point the leader of the religious zealots (the head of the student council at Tomoharu’s school, natch) has decided that Tomoharu has to join his side or die. He doesn’t explain his stance or why it’s important for the demons to be fought. It’s just join or die.
Which is typical zealot, I know, but when the subject in question clearly has no idea what’s going on, you’d think a word or two might be appropriate.
The pictured girl is the supernatural shrine maiden. As she sort of likes Tomoharu (or perhaps feels responsible for him being in such trouble), she sets about rescuing him. At this she succeeds, only to find herself at the zealots’ mercy. Unfortunately for her, she’s a demon, and thus that mercy extends to a brief, pointless trial before her predetermined sentence is past.
Tomoharu, being the hero, is having none of that, and races to save her from her fate. He stands before the zealot leader, threatening to whip out his giant robot thing and in the middle of this we have the above picture pop up.
For no real apparent reason.
Save maybe to distract from the vast confusion that is this series.
On second thought, maybe four episodes was too much time to give it…
Is one episode enough to judge an entire series by?
A little bit no, a little bit yes.
Here’s Desert Punk in a nut shell, at least based on the first episode: it’s the story of a post-apocalyptic “handyman” who does his best to finish ever job he starts. He’s a lecherous ass, but über competent. The stories are in a humorous vein and there’s a lot of leering at well endowed girls. It’s made by a company called Gonzo (and I doubt it refers to that Gonzo).
I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy parts of the episode. My humor can be juvenile and Desert Punk does cater that way. The action was, well, action. While I knew how the episode would turn out before Our “Hero” had a clue, I did watch on to the end.
But after that, I had and have no thought about continuing on. There’s not enough there to interest me.
And it might pick up and be good. Or at least as good as the material will let it.
You can’t engage me with one episode, I’m not finishing the series.
You might think that two young boys, fans of The Legend of Zelda video game series, would watch a cartoon based upon one of their favorite video game series. If you knew they watched such fine fair as Saturday Supercade, The Dragon’s Lair cartoon, and Pac-Man, you might think we… I mean they… they had no taste in cartoons whatsoever and would watch whatever was put up on the TV screen. Just pretty colors, that’s all they see. It could be the Smurfsevery Saturday and sometimes Fridays when it was on, over and over again with their voices, their annoying voices and moronic stories drilling into our heads like a diamond bore drill through tapioca pudding, it’s a wonder that we can think at all the amount of time we watched that show and the repeats and specials, and if you knew, if you only knew the horror that I have seen in the dark hours of the night, from the empty depths of the soul, but Papa Smurf always says… PAPA SMURF ALWAYS SAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So yeah, possibly insane outburst aside, we watched a lot of crap cartoons, Brother Eric and I, and if they stemmed from our beloved video games, well, so much the better. We laughed, we enjoyed. We were kids. Taste is relative to the size and maturity of the brain. Not always for the best, mind, but it is so.
Thus, we watched a lot of The Legend of Zelda cartoon series, right? We watched as the heroic Link and kind Princess Zelda struggled against the diabolical Ganon and his band of baddies as the fate of Hyrule. We cheered when the show began and mourned its passing. Right?
Watch the opening (courtesy of YouTube) and see if you can guess just why we didn’t watch. And bad animation doesn’t count; believe me, we watched much, much worse.
I made mention of this little phenomena before, in my Spectacular Spider-man review, but we may as well cover it again. In this winner of a cartoon, our hero Link was… one of them. A boy protagonist apparently created to appeal to boys by being as obnoxious as possible. Someone you would never actually want to hang with if he was a real live person. A character who made the viewer actively want him to die. On fire. Covered with bees. And fire ants.
You won’t believe how many fire ants.
I mean, for instance, take the opening’s end. Link rescues Zelda by leaping off a bridge, only to deposit her square into the water. She is, to say the least, a bit miffed. Does he point out that this was probably the only out come (ignoring the fact he managed to be perfectly high and dry)? Does he apologize? Does he look even the slightest bit sorry?
Of course not. He smirks and says “Well excuuuuse me, Princess!”
That’s his catch phrase. The thing he says in every God damn misbegotten painful as a toothache episode. “Well excuuuuse me, Princess!” Smirk, smirk.
He does that once in a video game I’m playing, he doesn’t need to worry about Ganon killing him. I’ll do the job myself. And not a cool death, either.
Fall on spikes and die. Like that one, elf boy?
You say you can’t hold you’re breath very long under water, Link? Well too bad! Dive, elf boy, dive!
Over and over again. And every time I will giggle.
Oh, how I will giggle.
See, I got this cat’s number. This particular Link knows he’s the only person Zelda can rely on. Thus, he believes that he can act out as badly as he wants to and keep his job. Snotty remarks? The occasional “accidental” dip in the river? She can’t fire him. Who else can she turn to, anyways? Mario? Please.
Worse, through out the series, Link keeps demanding kisses for his services. Seriously. Demands kisses. For his heroics.
That, friends and neighbors, is sexual harassment right there. I don’t care if he keeps being rebuffed or that (because It’s In The Script) Zelda secretly doesn’t mind. That’s a Dick Move. It will always be a Dick Move. Par for the course for… one of them.
The show only lasted 13 episodes before being pulled from the air. But, for the lucky few, it does appear to be on DVD. Which is proof that there is no justice in the universe. I mean, where the hell is my Mighty Orbots DVD? Huh? Quality cartoons languishing in limbo, and this crap gets the green light? Saying that I have the sudden urge to projectile vomit green puss and blood might be a gross image to put into a reader’s head, but no more so than the concept of sitting through even one episode of this dross. A waste of talent, a waste of effort, and a waste of precious life. My existence was happier before it entered my memories.
Before we leave this… I dunno. Is this a review? Seems so, I guess. More like a listing of petty grievances against something I don’t like. Which might be considered a review, come to that.
Whatever this is, let me make one final point. You can make a tale with a hero who is… one of them. You can make him an utter waste of skin (we’re looking at you, Ataru). You can even make him an evil, murderous creep.
But if you do, you have to work double time to make him entertaining. Otherwise, no one is going to want to be around him. Which means your tale will go unread. unloved.
That’s the great failing of this The Legend of Zelda‘s Link. His cartoon creators were so sure of his personality’s success, they didn’t go the extra mile to make watching him worth the viewer’s time. And that is why he failed.
“Typical” High Schooler Ataru Moroboshi has been picked by a random to save the Earth from invasion by the Oni. To do so, he must touch the horns of the alien’s top warrior, Lum. But things aren’t as straight forward as they appear, as Oni are capable of flight…
However, falling back on his true nature, Ataru manages to succeed, only to accidentally propose to Lum at the end. She quickly accepts, then informs Ataru that if he is ever unfaithful to her, she will use her other power on him. The power to send electricity coursing through him with a touch…
You don’t talk about Magical Girlfriends without talking about Urusei Yatsura. Actually, that’s not the whole of it. You really can’t talk about anime without mentioning UY. It is one of the most popular manga/anime out there. It has run 34 manga volumes, 195 TV episodes, 11 OVA, and 6 movies, which is nothing to sneeze at. More, and I might be going out on a limb here, it probably inspired the whole Magical Girl Harem sub genre in Japan.
Again, someone with more anime/manga knowledge might correct me on that last bit, but I don’t think it’s a bad assumption to make. What research I could pull off the web seems to suggest this, though admittedly I am not the best at finding facts on-line. Still, hear me out a moment.
Another thing that leads me to this conclusion – and I hasten to add that they too might be wrong – is the following quote from TV Trope Wiki:
…UY is one of the earliest tongue-in-cheek harem comedies, combining its outlandish premise to spice up deceptively typical plots, as well as parody the genre nearly a decade before the fact.
It’s impossible to just describe UY. I can say this quite without reservation, as I’ve tried and failed before. I fell back on words such as “wacky”, “wild”, and “almost killed me.” These do not really work for me, and, looking back on it, I’m kind of embarrassed by it. What I mean to say, without reservation, is that it is one of the funniest, most entertaining anime out there.
In cold print, the set up sounds… kind of bad. Ataru Moroboshi is a lecher of the worst order. He’s a grabby, groping kind of guy. What would be termed in the olden days as a masher. Not the kind of hero you’d expect. Or even want, come to that.
In practice, however, it’s sort of like the Waner Brothers Road Runner cartoons. Atatu is Wile E. Coyote and every single women in the series (save Ataru’s mother and Lum) acts as Road Runner. You really don’t want him to win, but he loses so often (and so cataclysmic) you find you almost have to like him.
I was going to squeeze Lum into that comparison somewhere (the Acme products?) but really, she’s more like Sam Sheepdog. I might have tried using that particular duo, except the women in UY aren’t exactly sheep. Most (if not all) of the women in the series are perfectly capable of handling Ataru’s advances, and do so with ease. Sometimes they do so with power rivaling Lum’s own electrify nature.
Whether or not the above comparison hold eight, know also that the series never, ever sides with Ataru’s shenanigans. In fact, it’s made clear early on that it’s his lecherous nature that the source of all of his woes. Were he to changes his nature, perhaps things would improve. The electric shock treatments might even be cut back a touch.
But only a touch.
I’ve really only covered one character in this review type thing here. The series has a tone of excellent characters, ranging from Ataru’s long-suffering fiancée (!) Shinobu Miyake to Lum’s fire-breathing breath cousin Ten. Then there are Lum’s Storm Troopers, a group of male classmates who want Lum to themselves, and who will go to great lengths to do so. And so on and so forth.
I think I can recommend this series straight across the board. Not only are both the series and manga excellent, but the movies are great as well. My favorite of the set is Beautiful Dreamer, in which the cast discovers not only that they are living the same day over and over again, but their numbers are dwindling. You probably should have a grasp on the characters before watching this one, or, really, any of the movies, but like I’ve been saying, doing so is worth the effort.
One small caveat (again?): If you have a problem with subtitles, then you might not get into UY. The series has never been fully dubbed into English.
That aside, below is the first season opening theme for . Try and get it out of your head once you’ve heard it…
Young Tenchi Masaki always wanted to know what was in the forbidden cave near his family’s shrine. So one day he sneaks in. Big mistake, as the cave contains the fabled Demon Ryoko. Ryoko only wants to play with Tenchi, if you consider massive property damage to be “play.”
Let’s now turn our eyes towards Japan. There, the Magical Girlfriend trope is much more alive than here in America. More, it is attached to another story archetype, that of the Harem Anime/Manga. Let’s pause a moment to discuss this new Archetype in regards to the subject at hand.
In the regular Harem stories, the loveliest of ladies all but surround our Hero. Between the male and the females exists a certain type of bond. Call it love, call it lust, call it whatever you want, the two groups1 can’t bear to be parted. Or perhaps one group can’t bear to be parted, but the other group doesn’t quite see it that way. You know how Archetypes are. Sometimes rigid, sometimes variable.
The main thrust of the Harem stories is the eventual choice Our Hero must make. Will he choose the tomboy? The Silent One? The Free Spirit? The girl whom he has a mutual hatred going for but deep down there’s a definite sense of attraction and/or love? Oh the burden he must have. Oh the stories that will result.
Now, for me, for my own personal viewing habits, I’ve found that our Hero inevitably chooses the wrong freaking girl. Meaning, of course, that the one I like is left crying in the distance while chump and chumpette go marching off into the distance. This has happened so often that, as a rule, I should stay away from Harem stories. For my ulcer’s sake.
I should also stay away from Bad Movies, but we all know how well that’s beenworked for me.
The other problem with Harem stories is that the viewer inevitably wonders why Our Hero won’t just make a choice already. The Creators often try to give an explanation for this. The Hero is clueless to the girls’ feelings, he doesn’t want to chose, or he wants them all. That sort of thing. It doesn’t matter. The viewer still tears out his/her hair while that nitwit dithers over a choice.
I hasten to add that a good Harem story will lessen these self destructive habits, and actually is enjoyable. Despite the fact the nitwit never chooses the right girl.
Now when you have a Magical Girlfriend Harem story (shortened to MG Harem), you don’t just have one Magical Girlfriend causing havoc. Of course not. See, almost every single females attached to the hero has her own special ability, and they are not afraid to use it. On this, like all Magical Girlfriends, they are not only jealous of the time Our Hero spends with other Females, they are hell-bent on getting him alone and working their wiles upon him.
All of this is a long-winded way to head to poor Tenchi Masaki. All he wanted to know was what was hidden in the cave behind the family shrine. Mainly because his grandfather said he couldn’t, but also because of the legends attached to his family. But, like so many forbidden secrets in Genre, there’s something to the legends. Trapped there in suspended animation is the Space Pirate Ryoko, the demon of legend. And, through his curious search, Our Hero releases her.
Well, like almost all Magical Girlfriends, Ryoko fixes on her rescuer and wants to play. Her version of “play” results in the destruction of Tenchi’s school and his own near death. More, her presences on Earth draws more aliens, including the Princess Ayeka (who, despite being the polar opposite of Ryoko, is almost as destructive as the Space Pirate) and the Space Cop Mihoshi (if intelligence was light, she would be the center of a black hole). Tenchi’s nice and simple life is now gone.
I’m not sure, but I seem to recall that this was one of the anime Brother Eric tried to introduce me to. I thought it looked dumb. But, like oh so many things Eric has pointed my way, it’s actually quite enjoyable. Tenchi is extremely likable, and while Ryoko is extremely selfish and destructive, I like her, too. Which means that, at least with the first six episodes, the creators pushed Ayeka as the “right choice.”
The skin chills at the notion. Ayeka’s first appearance has her shooting without provocation, false arrest, torturing a helpless captive, and theft.
Which is much worse than blowing up an empty school and trying to cause harm to the man she loves.
Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohkiis one of the best MG Harem stories out there. While it started out as a OVA, it inspired a hell of a lot of TV series, one of which (Tenchi Universe) is far better than the source. Both the Japanese voice cast and the American cast are excellent, or, at least they never grated quite as much as Mark Hamill does inJeannie (no, I’m not letting that go.)
I must add one cavat. I’m only talking about the first six episodes. While mileage may vary between the view, I really didn’t care for the second OVA series. The third and latest adds at least one new cast member. Tenchi’s new fiancée.
Back in the day, these things came out on VHS one episode per tape. On this, the subtitled version (my family’s preferred version) cost more than the dubbed. Hard to think about, in this age of DVDs
I don’t mention it above, but avoid Tenchi in Tokyo. It’s just painful
1 If one person can be considered a group, that is.
What do you do if you’re bored out of you’re mind? If you’re Haruhi Suzumiya, you sign up for a baseball tourmament and drag all of your followers along for the ride. Never mind the harsh truth that no one in Suzumiya’s SOS Brigade has any business and/or interest in playing on the field. Two days worth of practice should get them in shape to play.
What do you do if your team loses? If you’re Haruhi Suzumiya, you destroy the world. So it behooves the SOS Brigade to figure out how to connect bat and ball well enough to beat a college level team. And figure out fast.
The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya is the final story on the first two DVD collection of the series. If it’s an indication of what the remaining episodes will be like, I need more right away please.
Let’s start with some basic points. I hate baseball. Oh, get me in the stands and I’ll have as much fun as anyone else there. But anytime else… Pass.
This dislike of the sport naturally enough spreads to movies about the same. I can only think of two off the top of my head that I would sit down and watch. Even these I would neither seek out nor own. I just don’t care.
The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya, however, is my favorite story so far. To my mind it’s worth picking up the DVD for this story alone. Of course, having watch the series from the start, I got more out of it, but that’s neither here nor there.
I’m trying to think of some way of discussing the story without spoiling too much more than I already have. Difficult, but not impossible. The plot moves at a good clip and is less serious than the previous story line (in fact, I believe it less serious than The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00). The main characters continue to interest, and the background players amuse in various ways. I also like some of the background jokes. For instance, Kyon’s little sister never gets named. Even when she is listed in the teams lineup, she’s referred to as “Kyron’s sister.”
And I think that’s about as far as I dare go. The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya is an entertaining episode of a great show.
Last time was a bit rambling, wasn’t it? No focus. Can’t say this review will be any better, really, cause there’s a lot to say.
Before we begin, I must point out something. The following review covers the next six episodes of the series that follow The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00 (on the DVDs). See, they are all one story line. It is, therefore, impossible to go through without some degree of spoilers for all six episodes. I’m not going to go hog wild here – I have no desire to steal one moment of entertainment from this show – but I felt that some warning was needed.
If a review is needed before the spoilers, let me just say that I don’t usually babble about stuff that I find to be okay. I only go for the extremes, it seems. Either the very bad or, in this case, the very good.