Archive for the ‘reviews’ Category

Anime Review: Clannad

Posted: November 24, 2011 in anime, reviews
Tags:
Nagisa and Tomoya

Nagisa and Tomoya

Do you like sob stories? How about a sub story, within a sob story, within a sob story? If your answer is ‘yes,’ then Clannad is for you. Sure, on the cover it looks like a routine “feel-good following of highschool friends” anime like Azumanga Daioh. It’s not. 

Clannad is actually broken into two sections: the main 24 episodes and a 22-episode After Story. Really, they make up a 46-episode complete anime, as separate arcs.

The story follows Tomoya Okazaki, a senior and a “delinquent,” and the students he ends up surrounding himself with, starting with Nagisa Furukawa. In fact, the main plot of the first arc revolves around Nagisa coming out of her shell and starting up the drama club with Tomoya’s help. Nagisa missed her actual senior year, due to a recurring illness, so she’s actually repeating. Tomoya, with delinquent in quotes, cuts class a lot, but rarely does he actually make trouble for anyone, even himself. Honestly, his character is just like putting a rat poison label on a jar of artificial sweetener, it’s not exactly sugar, but it’s definitely not rat poison either.

Within the first arc are mini-arcs, in which Tomoya and Nagisa reach out to a couple of different students and help them to make friends and complete desired goals. Then tragic things happen or are revealed. Really, it’s like a buzz kill. It’s like rescuing a puppy from a fire in order for it to get hit by a car a few short days later. Seriously, watch this anime with a box of tissues.

Now, I’m not really going to get into the After Story. Frankly, I didn’t watch it, but you don’t really need to. See, here’s what happened:

After Story

After Story

Within the anime are a few clips about an alternate story that has (seemingly) nothing to do with the main story at all. There’s a robot and a girl, and they’re all alone in the world they’re in. The story is referenced by Nagisa way late in the first arc, and Tomoya claims that the story sounds vaguely familiar. When the main anime arc ends, the only question that doesn’t get answered is where that story came from and what it has to do with the main plot. So, I did what any curious person does: I googled it. I ended up reading an entire synopsis, with a box of tissues, only to discover at the end that it was the “After Story” arc. Now that I know what happens, it’s kind of pointless to watch it, especially with the circumstances that unfold. It follows Nagisa and Tomoya into the future and the events that surround Tomoya in dealing with yet more tragedy.

Don’t believe me? If you don’t mind the SPOILERS BELOW, then keep reading.

Tomoya past/present: His mother died when he was a child, sending his father into a permanent alcoholic and gambling binge. Tomoya attends the school that he does on a basketball scholarship. A fight with his father in which his father got physical, put Tomoya permanently on the bench. He can no longer lift his right arm above his shoulder. Tomoya cuts class frequently, labeling him as a delinquent, and subsequently, easily blamed for anything that goes amiss at the school.

Nagisa: This isn’t discovered until literally the last quarter of the first arc. Nagisa’s picturesque family as a dark secret, which is kept locked in the shed behind their house. As revealed to Tomoya by Nagisa’s father, both he and his wife had their dream jobs: he was an actor and she was a teacher. Nagisa is plagued by a recurring illness, which hit her pretty hard as a child one winter day. Nagisa’s parents left her home alone for 2 hours while they went to their jobs, and her father rushed home as soon as he could. He found her passed out in front of the house, in the snow, close to death. Her parents gave up their jobs to open a bakery and be home with Nagisa, keeping that secret from her. She suspects there’s something hidden in her childhood  that she should apologize for, even though it wasn’t her fault.

Fuuko Ibiki: One of the first side characters that Tomoya and Nagisa help is Fuuko, rumored to be a ghost student. Her older sister, a former art teacher, is getting married at the school, and Fuuko creates star fish out of wood as wedding invitations for all the students. Tomoya and Nagisa discover Fuuko was in an accident on her way to school and currently resides in a hospital, in a coma. She is the spirit of her real self, trying to get things together for the wedding. But slowly, the students at the school don’t remember her, and can’t see her anymore. Come the day of the wedding, even Tomoya and Nagisa start forgetting she exists. But everyone suddenly remembers about the wedding and show up for a beautiful day. The following day, Tomoya and Nagisa, along with everyone else, have completely forgotten about Fuuko.

Kotomi Ichinose: She’s a brilliant student who isolates herself in the library everyday and devours book after book. Tomoya tries to get her out of her shell and be more sociable. Then, when she witnesses the wreckage of a bus accident (even though no one got hurt), she has a psychotic break and barricades herself in her house. Tomoya tries to help, only to discover that her parents both died in a plane accident over the ocean on their way to America to give a lecture. She received this news on her birthday.

Tomoya and Nagisa in After Story: They get married and have their first child, a daughter. Nagisa falls ill again and dies. Tomoya goes into a depression, forcing Nagisa’a parents to raise his daughter. After five years, a talk with his grandmother gives him enough strength to live again, and he gets his daughter back. He discovers that she has the same recurring illness as Nagisa, and she soon dies too. Tomoya has a psychotic break and ends up in the alternate reality as the robot from the story. Then he wakes up and Nagisa and his daughter are both alive again. But the damage it did to my psyche is done. Now it feels like a “oh yeah, we messed up. Just kidding.”

the big dango family

the big dango family

So that’s it the SPOILERS END HERE.

It was a good anime, but you’l find yourself going “NO WAY” in a stream of tears at the end of every mini arc, and definitely for sure several times during the After Story. Definitely keep those tissues handy.

And one last note, let the episode play into the closing credits. The Dango Family song is worth a listen as a running joke in the anime itself.

Ok, so after getting distracted with Tumbling for a couple of weeks (which was totally worth, fyi) I can finally accomplish the post I’ve been meaning to get to for awhile now. As you know from my super excited post way back in June, the Ouran Highschool Host Club drama was released in Japan at the end of July. So far, 8 episodes have aired, and I’ve seen 7 of them (still waiting for the 8th to be posted). It’s fun, because I’ve seen the anime enough that I know what happens, so I don’t need to wait to watch the English subtitled version. Although, some parts do deviate a little from the original, so I end up watching them twice. But hey, I’m cool with that. Anyway, 7 episodes is a sufficient amount of viewing to write a reasonable review, so here goes. By the way, there’s no spoilers here.

Mainly, my review, though it’ll go on for several more paragraphs (which you’ll still probably read), can be summed up in a single statement: IT ROCKS! Yes, yes it does.

First off, yes, there are a few things, especially with episode 2 where it doesn’t follow the anime. But that’s ok! No, seriously. What was changed, I can see why they did it as far as the story line goes, and I think they did a fantastic job with it. They kept all the ‘happy fan’ parts in the right place (and no, that’s not a ‘dirty’ term, by that I mean scenes that fans would kill people if they were cut out).

In episode 2, they took a character who literally had a walk-on role in the anime (she stood next to Kyoya in principal’s office when Tamaki started his first day of middle school, and all she did was gush when Tamaki told her she had pretty, straight hair) and made her important. That little moment caused a huge break down in that episode, where Tamaki’s words held quite an impression, and it was a much better character story to use than whiney Kanako and her tea cup, host swapping crap.

Also, episode 5, if you ask ANY Ouran fan, will be ranked in their top 3, depending on which character is their favorite it’ll be in either spot there. They pushed the episode one step further, keeping the BEST scenes in there, but adding more “OMG!” moments to it. For Kyoya fans, it’s extremely pleasant surprise, because, as we know, Kyoya’s character development in the anime doesn’t happen until two-thirds of the way in. Well, in the live action, it starts in episode 5. I’m not going to give any spoilers on that one. I’m just going to tell you it’s awesome, like, “finding money in your winter coat pocket from last season that you didn’t know you had” awesome.

Kawaguchi Haruna as Fujioka Haruhi

Kawaguchi Haruna as Fujioka Haruhi

As for the casting, and this is coming from someone who had no prior experience with any of these actors (Ouran’s my first J-drama. I know, where have I been, right?), I think they’re all well casted. I have a couple minor nit-picks, but don’t we all. I’m not complaining, I think the cast is great. Starting with Haruhi, solely on looks, she’s perfect. When dressed like a girl, it’s completely obvious she is one, even with short hair. When she’s a host, that line blurs a lot, as it’s supposed to. Good call on that. Kawaguchi also captures the annoyance that Haruhi feels frequnetly very well.

Yamamoto Yusuke as Suou Tamaki

Yamamoto Yusuke as Suou Tamaki

As for Tamaki, when I first saw him I thought to myself, “wow, his face is very unique.” But that’s not in a bad way, in fact I think Yamamoto Yusuke is a very good looking actor. Honestly, that was the thought I was hoping for with him, after all, Tamaki’s character is supposed to be half French anyway. I do wish his hair was significantly more blonde, but again, I’ve got no complaints on this one. Yamamoto nails his outlandishness and overzealous behaviors, but is still completely capable of more serious moments when they’re needed.

Daito Shunsuke as Ootori Kyoya

Daito Shunsuke as Ootori Kyoya

Kyoya, oh geez, where do I start? He was the only character that I actually wasn’t too horribly impressed with. That was short lived, mind you. I guess we’re most critical of our favorite characters. Daito nails the ‘cold as ice’ vibe that Kyoya’s known for putting off, but there’s a slight pompousness to Kyoya’s actions and speech that I feel like is missing. As the episodes go on though, and especially after episode 5, I don’t miss it. I even think I might like the live action Kyoya better than the anime one. But now after seeing the Japanese drama Tumbling, I just love Daito as an actor, period. And did I mention he’s got the most gorgeous smile that I’ve ever seen on any human being, ever? Truth.

Takagi Shinpei as Hitachiin Hikaru & Takagi Manpei as Hitachiin Kaoru

Takagi Shinpei as Hitachiin Hikaru & Takagi Manpei as Hitachiin Kaoru

As bizarre as it sounds, I think I might have been convinced that Japan doesn’t have celebrity twins, because I nearly fell off my chair when I saw the casting for the Hitachiin brothers. Perfect. That’s all I’ve got to say. Except, again with the hair, I wish it was more orange, but that bothers me less and less as the episodes continue on. Something I’ve noticed in the anime, is that they have this attitude when they realize Haruhi can tell them apart together that’s a cross between “oh crap, what do we do now” and “well, that’s interesting.” The Takagi twins nailed it. It’s a bigger depth of character for the Hitachiin brothers than just their goofy antics and trouble making.

Chiba Yudai as Haninozuka Mitsukuni

Chiba Yudai as Haninozuka Mitsukuni

Here I am thinking they got some twelve year old kid to play Honey, when really he’s 22 years old. Facially, they’re spot on in my opinion, but his hair drives me absolutely nuts. He’s supposed to be BLONDE, not red. But, I’ll give Chiba credit. His rendition of Honey, I think, is impressive, so again, whatever on the hair color. I was very curious as to how they would deal with the height thing, because while Chiba isn’t that tall, he isn’t short either. The shrinking when he jumps is hilarious, and I’m ok with it. As far as characters go, this casting is the one I read the most complaints about. I think they’re all nuts. He’s an excellent Honey senpai!

Nakamura Masaya as Morinozuka Takashi

Nakamura Masaya as Morinozuka Takashi

Now Mori, I really don’t have a lot to say about. Sorry, the pun wasn’t completely intended, but it’s true. (If you didn’t get the pun: Mori doesn’t say much, ever.) Frankly, as far as characters go in Ouran, Mori seems to be the least important. Really, he just follows Honey around, and only has somewhat of a character development in one episode: Honey’s Three Bitter Days. That episode is not until the latter half of the series, so hopefully that’ll make me less indifferent about him. But in his favor, he does do a great job of, you know, not speaking.

I am thrilled with how Ouran is playing out. To first time Ouran watchers, keep in mind: the bizarre things are part of the charm. It is, after all, based off of an anime. As for Ouran anime veterans, keep an open mind. It’s true to the story, and even though some things are a little different, it’s still right on in character development and vibe.

Tumbing

Tumbling main cast

It’s almost 5am here on the east coast. I’ve got a number of things keeping me awake, when I’m usually passed out cold by midnight most nights. For one, hurricane Irene is on our doorstep, and the bands of rain are starting to wash themselves over us, which is rare for a named storm to do. Also, I’ve consumed a good 4-5 cups of green tea with jasmine, which I stopped drinking at about 11pm. Did I mention I’m completely caffeine intolerant? Haha, I’m wide awake. And the third thing keeping me awake: “Tumbling.”

My brother’s fiance, Mayumi, who I might have mentioned before, is from Japan and she’s a huge fan of Japanese dramas. She’s the one who revealed to me the epic-ness that is the live action Ouran. So anyway, I just got done watching the newest episode that was out, and while consuming my 3rd cup of the glorious jasmine green tea, I mentioned to Mayumi that I need to start watching other Japanese dramas to fill in the gaps between Ouran airings.

Perusing the website that I was on, I stumbled upon “Tumbling,” a drama centered around a failing Rhythmic Gymnastics club at the high school, and a rag-tag gang thug is forced to join as punishment for failing in his classes. Needless to say, he learns a lot from them, and they learn a lot from him, like how to stop failing. The mischief maker is played by Yamamoto Yusuke, the same actor as Tamaki in Ouran. And Kyoya actor Daito Shunsuke also has a role as an ex-gang member with a deep and hidden past. I know, it just draws you in, doesn’t it?

The story line is fantastic, and the side plots in the episodes are actually pretty riveting. I think I’ve even cried a few times. And the bizarre thing is, I’m only on episode 2. (Episode 1 is like, two hours long, and each consecutive one is an hour.) But honestly, I feel like I’ve already watched half a season.

Now, I’ve never seen the American show on ABC family called “Make it or Break it.” You know, the one with the gymnasts and what not. But anyway, I assume it’s a lot like that, except instead of whiney, drama filled teenage whores, there’s gorgeous japanese guys doing kick-ass back hand springs and vaulted twists. Clear winner. But don’t take my word for it. Just start the first episode, and you’ll flip too.

Edit 8/28: Oh yeah, and Nippori’s cry face is hilariously awful. And Yuuta looks like a Japanese version of 11 year old Harry Potter, which makes me giggle every time I see him on screen. And Satoshi’s voice DOES get more tolerable.

Edit 9/10: I stumbled upon another blog who referred to Tumbling as a cross between “Bring it On,” “West Side Story,” and “Make it or Break it,” to which I whole-heartedly agree.

First off, I must apologize for the lack of posting over the last week or two. I’ve been interviewing at a company to be a web designer, and they had me create a website from the ground up as part of the process. Though I thoroughly enjoyed sinking my teeth back into the wonderful world of CSS and wordpress manipulation, I’m glad to be back to spending my free time writing and watching anime. I’ve also seemed to have run the well dry on Criminal Minds episodes.

Mugen, Fuu, and Jin

Mugen, Fuu, and Jin

I started watching Samurai Champloo tonight while hanging out with a friend of mine on our day off. For some reason, I either forgot about this anime, or I subconsciously ignored that I knew about it. Samurai Champloo was the ultimate favorite anime of one of my best friends who passed away in 2008. Perhaps, for that reason it took me so long to get into it. I’d also venture to guess that it’s due in part to the airing of it on Cartoon Network, and therefore, I’ve only seen a few, random episodes. I tend to not get into anime in which that happens… ie. Cowboy Bebop, Kekkeishi,  Inuyasha, and Ruoni Kenshin to name a few. Thanks Cartoon Network!

My friend Lena and I decided on Samurai Champloo after perusing the various anime on her Netflix (I’m convinced I need Netflix now), and we were riveted from episode 1. I was surprised that it was only 26 episodes, as I had been convinced it was one of those anime that seems to go on forever. So far, we made it through to episode 15 in one sitting, and this is my reaction to what we’ve seen so far.

First of all, we’re half way through, and I find it COMPLETELY bizarre that the character who talks the most (Fuu) is the one that we know the least about. Weird, right? And the whole objective of the plot is Mugen and Jin helping her to find the samurai who smells like sunflowers. We’re at the middle of the series and know absolutely nothing about who this guy is, what he means to her, and why she wants to find him. My best guess is that it’s her father, considering she mentioned that he left a long time ago, and her mother passed away just about a year prior to episode 1.

Jin, who will have his own Megane Danshi post in the future, is almost even with Fuu on how much we know about him. He generally does not say a whole lot, but it is known at this point that someone betrayed the dojo, and Jin himself killed his own master. Again, I can venture a guess, and I think Jin is above blatant murder for no reason, so the guy must have had it coming to him. I’m thinking the master was the rogue.

And Mugen, his entire backstory was revealed in episodes 14-15, and that was probably the most powerful thing I’ve seen in awhile, when Mugen leaves his childhood friend alive after killing everyone she depended on. And by awhile, I mean since episode 7 when Fuu witnesses the unnecessary murder of a new friend who was just trying to make enough money to help his sick and dying mother.

I think this anime has all the makings for a very intense and sad ending. All three of them seem to revolve heavily on their secret pasts, and I’m insanely curious as to what they’ve all got hiding, especially Fuu. I wouldn’t be surprised if either Mugen or Jin bites the dust at the end, for some reason I don’t see that happening to Fuu. Those two seem to have much to atone for in their lives, even though they’re still extremely young, and Fuu seems to have been innocent in her upbringing.

I can see why my friend loved this anime so much. The main characters are interesting, and their dynamics play off each other extremely well. Their secret pasts keep you glued to find out how it unravels. And this mysterious samurai who smells like sunflowers is driving me crazy. We still don’t know anything about him. I look forward to having all of these questions answered and secrets revealed, and I hope I don’t need a full box of tissues.

Delinquent Cinderella

Delinquent Cinderella

no spoilers, just my hunches.

I happened upon a new manga this morning, and I was almost late for work from getting absorbed into it. Delinquent Cinderella, now 12 chapters long, is a Korean manga, and the names of the characters are a little hard to follow for me because of it. Despite that, the manga plays up a ton of mysterious back stories and hidden agendas. There’s also a GIGUNDO love triangle, and there’s no telling who will end up with who at this point.

The main character, Lee Nan Hui, is a badass high school student caught in a ton of family drama with stern grandmothers. She becomes a transplant to Seoul in the first chapter after the grandmother she lives with can no longer deal with her trouble making. Living under her rich other grandmother (her father’s mother) with her mom and brother, the family atmosphere is tense and … weird? Her brother, Un Ho, is the same age as her. Apparently, he hasn’t seen her since they were kids when she left to move in with her other grandmother. I have a guess at an adultery somewhere along the way. The father has not been shown at this point, and the only thing we do know about him is that he was born and raised in wealth. Her grandmother constantly chides her for her behavior, but she refuses to back down to her.

When I say this girl is a badass, I mean it. Lee’s first day in Seoul, she kicks the crap out of a couple of guys who were beating on someone. She meets Gong Meong, the student everyone respects and fears at the school. She starts to drive him nuts, because she ignores his demands to be respected. He’s the other character that’s seen in some of the other cover shots. Both of them are rough around the edges, so to speak.

The love triangle in this manga is borderline ridiculous, but I like how unpredictable it is. A guy introduced in the first chapter (I can’t remember his name) is shown as being deeply affectionate toward Lee Nan Hui. It’s obvious he cares for her, and he’s constantly making comments about waiting for her. But then there’s Gong Meong who gets under her skin. They seem to be set up as the main couple in the story line because much of it revolves around the pair of them, as well as the cover artwork. But, it’s a well known fact to all the characters that he’s been in love with Min Wa Ram, an exceedingly popular and gorgeous girl at the school. Unfortunately, even though she cares about Gong Meong, she’s in love with Baek Jae Ha, a family rival of his. He treats her like crap (even though he’s generally a much nicer guy than Gong), so it’s assumed he’s only dating her aggravate him. And he also seems to have his eye on Lee Nan Hui. Crazy, right? So there’s no telling who ends up with who.

It’s still early, so everyone’s intentions and personalities haven’t been fully displayed yet. And there’s a great deal of missing backstory, like Lee’s father and her same-aged brother. If I could pick at this point, I’d want Gong Meong with Min Wa Ram, and Lee with the guy from her old school in chapter one.

I’m curious to see how this all pans out and how Lee will eventually stick it to her hateful grandmother.

Anime Review: Trigun

Posted: May 7, 2011 in reviews
Tags:

no spoilers here.

Vash the Stampede

Vash the Stampede

This is a pure anime classic. Honestly, I have no idea what took me so long to actually look this one up and watch it. It has a brilliant mix of action, heartfelt scenes, tear jerking deaths, and extremely lovable characters. With only 4 regular cast members (one of which doesn’t even start appearing until episode 11, and then takes another few episode hiatus), the rest are introduced and gone within 1-2 episodes, including the villains. They don’t necessarily die, they just aren’t shown or involved in the story line anymore.

Trigun is about Vash the Stampede, an ace gun man with a vow to never take the life of another person, however evil he or she might be. In most cases, he comes across as a total carefree, klutzy dimwit. But, when someone’s life is on the line or he has certain things to come to grips with, he completely changes face.

Vash is called the human typhoon, because he’s known as the man who completely obliterated the city named July and leaves destruction in his wake whenever he appears. Though he has no memory of July, he knows he’s responsible. He spends most of the anime hunting down the main antagonist, Knives, and his lackeys, Legato and the Gung-Ho-Guns. Knives has made it his personal ambition to wipe humans off the face of… whatever planet they’re on.

The anime also follows two insurance representatives, Meryl and Milly, who’ve been given the task of tracking down Vash and making sure his resultant damage is minimal. Meryl is a logical thinker and a diligent go-getter. Milly is the quint-essential air head, but underneath she’s extremely intelligent. The pair make a remarkable counter cast to Vash and Nicholas D. Wolfwood.

Wolfwood is by far my favorite characters in the series. He’s a priest and orphanage owner with a mysterious back story and an awesome gun. He wields a cross that’s taller than he is and extremely heavy. The triggers are in the center, the bottom is something of a machine gun, the top is a rocket launcher, and the cross bar can be unfolded, containing a rack of several hand guns. Unlike Vash, he’s okay with killing under a certain moral code.

The chemistry (not romantic!) between Vash and Wolfwood is insane! In a good way. They are both extraordinary gun men with a will to protect the innocent. In episode 10, Wolfwood and Vash sign each other up for a shoot out contest, and I laughed so hard I could have died. Their differences in moral code make for some seriously heated scenes, but eventually they both change each other. If you become a Wolfwood fan, tissues are necessary for episode 24, which reveals his past and his changes.

In general though, depending on how much you connect yourself with the main characters, you may need those tissues from episodes 15 and on. That’s when the main plot of the story reveals itself and the characters are really put through their paces. If you don’t love Vash after the humiliating and crazy things he does to protect even the most evil of human life, then you have no soul. Some of you might be okay with that, and if that’s true, well, then, alright.  But for everyone else, Vash is the glue that binds all of the awesomeness of Trigun together, making a series worth watching.

5/5

Anime Review: Moon Phase

Posted: April 26, 2011 in reviews
Tags:

no spoilers here.

Moon Phase

Hazuki, aka Luna

Moon Phase (Tsukuyomi) is about a vampire girl who is rescued from her captivity in a castle by amateur photographer Kouhei. After she bites Kouhei, she is freed from her servitude and chooses to follow him home, claiming him as her slave. Unbeknownst to her, and the rest of the vampire community, Kouhei is the “Vampire’s Lover,” or a human who, once bitten, will free vampires from their wills. The rest of the vampire community is outraged by him, and want nothing more than to bring Luna home. Luna, or Hazuki, learns what family really means, and that its not just all about blood (pun fully intended).

For me, the anime started slow. I got to episode 5, and then I stopped watching it over a year. Recently, I picked it back up and forced myself through it. After another episode or two, it began to pick up and get a lot more interesting.

Overall, it was worth a watch. The Neko-mimi (Cat-girl) shenanigans gets old really fast, but its not horribly distracting. And there’s Seiji Mido, a megane danshi, whom I will have a post on later. There are about two arcs, and about half way through the anime is a major plot shift which separates the two. Though the “first” final battle is entertaining, the last one is less than stellar and ends almost too abruptly. On a positive note, there is a wrap up episode (25) which was really nice.

Episode 26 is an encore filler, and I could have done without seeing it. The characters seemed to be either too much in character or completely out of character, and the whole episode was complete nonsense.

Another downside is that some loose ends are never tied up, especially when it comes to Kouhei’s mother. They appear to get close to an answer, and it may be inferred as to what happened, but no definite answers are given.

3.5/5