In this edition, two new shows join the roster and two more head ever closer to being dropped completely. It’s been weird to see some shows that look so generic become so much better and other shows with great premises to fail very hard. It’s been a mostly down month for a lot of series, but some surprises await. See below the fold for more… Continue Reading →
Durarara!! was one of Winter 2010′s most hyped series mainly for the setting of one of Japan’s biggest entertainment districts, Ikebukuro and the notion of gang wars really sparked huge amounts of interest from the very beginning. Durarara was all about character development and for such a large cast of characters, 24 episodes was plenty to develop such a cast. It did succeed in bringing a whole host of different characters enough time to really show viewers who they are and what they really mean. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the plot. It is solid at first, with each character bringing their own piece of the grander puzzle amidst territory disputes from various gangs in the city like the Dollars and the Yellow Scarves. The way each character brings their own involvement into the grander picture is done very well and manages to throw a few shocking twists at the end without it feeling awkward or stiff. But the last 1/4 of the series is filled with a lot of misunderstandings and melodrama that it could have been better presented and explored differently. That was probably my biggest complaint of this series.
The music in this series definitely works here, paying special attention to particular scenes and emotionally important ones. It’s funky, fresh and fun – which is what this series is exactly all about. The OP/EDs are okay, but the real treat from them is the stylish visuals that serve to refresh your memory on the entire cast of characters (which is a lot). The animation is stunning, bringing out a bustling district like Ikebukuro and giving it even more flair to the point where it’s overloaded with visually appealing instances that you can’t help but marvel at.
But the real treat comes not from the production values but the cast of characters themselves. It’s this huge cast that truly brings out the best of Durarara!!. The way each character is presented is truly fascinating and how each of their personal stories has a role in the grand scheme of things only heightens how wonderful creator Ryogo Narita is at storytelling. They don’t just enhance the plot, but they are the reason why people adore this series: They’re memorable, they make a name for themselves and they don’t try to be someone else.
A complaint is raised from those who have seen Narita’s other series, Baccano!, because of the more relaxed nature of Durarara!! impacted the character development which in turn leads to a more weaker plot. Having seen Durarara followed by Baccano!, i can attest that the latter is very much a stronger series than the former: With only 13 episodes (not including the specials), Baccano! was able to develop a dozen different main characters while telling a story that spans more than hundreds of years apart. Yeah, that’s pretty amazing and Durarara!! can’t hold a candle to that but what it can do is show that even without a grand, confusing plot it can still rely on the strength of its diverse and large cast of characters to make for a wonderful viewing experience.
Animation: 9/10 – It’s breathtaking to see how just one city can look so visually appealing but since its Brains Base, i’m not surprised. I really like the character designs too, they really fit well with the animation.
Story: 7/10 – It really went a bit downhill in the second half of the series. It was still good, but after the Dollars (temporarily) disbanded the whole Mikado/Kida/Anri drama really didn’t feel right at all and the ending was a bit too cheesy and wide-open.
Music: 8/10 – I like the OP and ED visuals alot, but the songs themselves aren’t that interesting. The background music is another story: Once again Makoto Yoshimori manages to work his magic and create another addicting score.
Characters: 9/10 – This is why people love Durarara!!. The characters are wonderfully diverse and bring their own unique qualities front and center for a great viewing experience. Whether it’s Shizuo and Izaya’s constant skirmishes, Celty’s journey to realize who she really is, Kida’s womanizing tendencies or Anri’s switch from typical megane girl to something scary, Durarara!!’s large cast of characters never feels forced and never gets old.
Enjoyment: 8/10 – I’m glad i got to see this series first instead of Baccano! because while Durarara!! didn’t live up to the same heights that Baccano! accomplished, it did really flesh out the huge cast of characters with a longer episode count, accompanied by a great premise and a great location to put these plot points together. This show was great developing its characters, but the plot needed some fine tuning. Nevertheless, i really enjoyed Durarara!! and highly recommend it to anyone.
There is always exceptions to any rules started by someone or by yourself. When it comes to ecchi and fanservice animes, i steer very clear from them as they ultimately lead to a pretty unremarkable and even annoying experience. Highschool of the Dead, however, is the exception here. The basic premise in a nutshell: Kick some zombie ass while boobs jiggle mercilessly. H.O.T.D presents fanservice in a much better light than other similar series: creativity. Yes, fanservice will always be just that but H.O.T.D spices it up by injecting some amounts of creativity in it (yes, i’m talking about the boob matrix scene mainly) without overtly shoving it in your face. It is truly in my opinion, the epitome of a “mindlessly entertaining” series. Zombies are a huge thing in North America and the reception it got was more than enough for Sentai Filmworks to boast as the “best selling anime yet” for them. H.O.T.D is mindlessly entertaining because when you even mention the word “zombies”, people are in a flurry to see what the action is. They don’t care about a plot, and shows like these purposely leave out or don’t fully explore a story. What H.O.T.D ultimately delivers, thanks to Director Tetsurou Araki and Madhouse, is the mindless fun of zombie head smashing with enough fanservice to attract more male audiences.
Now i mentioned that the director for this series is Tetsurou Araki: He’s a staple in Madhouse, having previously directed Death Note. This season he’s directing Guilty Crown. Why do i bring up Guilty Crown in this review? Because, in H.O.T.D, Araki really delivers bringing us entertainment that can appeal to a large audience even when the plot/story was mediocre. Unfortunately, Guilty Crown has neither a cohesive plot to fall back to nor any means of pure enjoyment that H.O.T.D clearly delivers on. It speaks volumes when a show that has a genre in it that i clearly dislike manages to keep me more entertained than a show with a clear and interesting premise and really stellar visuals. Perhaps this is a Production I.G. thing as Eden of the East was also a bit disappointing with storytelling but had amazing visuals as a sort of fallback option.
Anyways, what’s said is done: H.O.T.D clearly delivered on one important aspect of any anime series: entertainment. It could have just had mindless zombie fights and worthless fanservice but with Madhouse’s involvement it had even more going for it: high quality visuals. The characters are fun, if not grating at times and manage to grab our attention in many different ways. All in all, i was surprised at how entertaining H.O.T.D was and how disappointed i am with Guilty Crown when you put the two together it should have been obvious which is better but now the lines between them are blurred.
Animation: 9/10 – It’s Madhouse so you can expect high quality visuals. Lively background art and beautiful blood spatter is just icing on the cake here. The visuals on the OP are just fantastic. If you want mindless zombie fights, you better get mindless zombie fights that actually look stunning. Madhouse delivers here.
Story: 6/10 – It’s boobs and zombies, do you expect a thoughtful and intricate plot? No. Well it had a plot, then it didn’t and the last two episodes try to conjure up something…
Sound: 7/10 – It’s largely unnoticeable, but the OP and the various EDs are a treat. I’ve changed my rating from “Music” to “Sound” as there’s not much to talk about music-wise in most series. The voice acting is superb, and everyone fits there roles perfectly such as Miyuki Sawashiro (Saeko) and Eri Kitamura (Takagi).
Characters: 7/10 - Each character has their own preferences for fighting and with that carries a different sort of personality. There are instances when the cast really starts angsting and some characters (Shizuka..) really have no purpose at all in the series.
Enjoyment: 8/10 – Yeah i can give a pass on the ecchi than H.O.T.D brings and just immerse myself in the zombie smashing action without difficulty. This series is clearly meant to entertain and with great visuals from Madhouse, it does just that.
It should be no secret whatsoever if you take a quick look at my MAL profile that i love Natsume Yuujinchou. I really, REALLY love this series and i’ve taken the liberty to write the most non-biased review for it. I only heard about it through Crunchyroll when season 2 was already airing. For whatever reason, i had no clue why i decided to watch it but i’m so glad I made that decision. Continue Reading →
Oh my god, i literally can’t believe what i saw. An emotionally powerful episode of the iDOLM@STER featuring one of the under-rated idols. The last time i honestly cried like this was season 1 of Natsume Yuujinchou. Yes, the last two seasons of my all-time favorite show couldn’t get me to bring down the waterworks but a very over-looked show that i knew little about (never played the games) manage to do just that. Everything was done right about this episode – A-1 Pictures took out the very cheerful opening music, the lighting choices, the overall serious tone – everything was done really well. The last few iM@S episodes have been showing a lack of budget and now i understand why. Everything was leading up to this: Takane’s episode started with a brief glimpse of Chihaya’s past, which i felt was out of place at first but it all made so much sense in the end.
The water works didn’t start until Chihaya started singing “Promise” (Yakusoku) and it only continued after visions of little Chihaya and her brother Yuu showed up right before the credits. It was a powerful experience, and i’m still rewatching the entire scene. Asami Imai deserves praise for a wonderful performance and solidified why i’m fond of her voice as Kurisu from Steins;Gate. A-1 Pictures deserves praise as well: from Director/Series Composition AND Character Designer Atsushi Nishigori (of Gurren Lagann fame) to the hard-working animators, sound technicians and the producers (heh, not that Producer!). They’ve really made a name for themselves this year with AnoHana, but the iDOLM@STER deserves praise as well.
Side note: This review contains spoilers. Slightly updated as well to reflect new scoring system.
BONES is known for churning out widely acclaimed series such as Fullmetal Alchemist, Darker than Black and Ouran High School Host Club. Another series is also widely considered to be in this group of acclaimed series. Yes, none other than Eureka Seven. I’ve always had an interest for this series. I’ve grown to appreciate BONES’ work in Fullmetal Alchemist and Ouran High School Host Club wasn’t that bad at all. It’s fair to say that BONES is a very creative studio with a lot of talented people dedicated to bringing the best they can. Unfortunately, Eureka Seven was not one of these series. Continue Reading →
Another late watch to this series. I honestly don’t know why i watched this series, but i saw one episode and i was hooked on it. From there, a great deal of things had occurred.
First things first, this is an original anime series believe it or not. I was pretty surprised about that myself but aside from that, it looks (on paper/picture/whatever) like your typical run of the mill anime that always pops up almost every season. In fact, that’s probably what Dog Days is. But it’s also unbelievably fun at times and at its lows a still fun series. Dog Days is one of those shows that says “Let’s just have fun with what he have”. I really enjoyed the fighting between Biscotti and Galette soldiers, with both sides fighting not for revenge/blood thirsting rage but as friendly rivals. It may have not been the best animated series, but it was a fun series throughout the good and the bad times. I just wish the staff had made the drama in the second half a bit more structured and less whiny on the angst.
Animation: 7/10 – Wasn’t that great in the end. It really started looking QUALITY-like towards the end, but it was pretty average. I’m not a huge fan of Seven Arc’s either (never seen Nanoha series, don’t even get me started on Asura Cryin’…), but they knew when to put the budget where it was needed the most. But that seiyuu cast is impressive though (Mamoru Miyano, Norio Wakamoto, Yui Horie, Daisuke Ono…and so forth).
Story: 6/10 - It’s there, but..it’s also not there. Confusing, right? Well Dog Days started strong with a pretty interesting premise but it just became mashed with pretentious melodrama towards the end. Should have kept the fun fights and supporting character development arcs and left the weirdly placed drama behind.
Music: 7/10 – It’s good, especially the European-like tunes (i’m a sucker for anything sounding classical/sophisticated and European) and the fun fighting songs. Loved the OP, the ED not so much.
Characters: 8/10 – Oh how refreshing to see a male lead character make a name for himself amongst the harem onslaught of characters on the series instead of being bland and forgettable. I really am impressed that Nana Mizuki can voice Ricotta (high-pitched “de-arimasu”) and sing the OP song (low-pitched manlier voice). The cast was diverse as the seiyuu list for this series and that really helps this series out a lot when there’s not much else to look forward to. Eclair > Ricotta > Leonmitchelli > D’arquien > Yukikaze > Millhiore > Cinque.
Enjoyment: 7/10 - The first half of the series was just pure, mindless fun. People turn to cats when they lose (yet, it’s called “Dog Days” why?)? Hilarious! The cast was just fun to see. Then, came part 2 with the whole “Oh crap, the master wants to go back to his planet!” shtick . Oh, the lame melodrama there was painful.
Note: This is only reviewing season 1. I will write a separate review for season 2 soon. This review does contain spoilers.
If there’s ever been a more divisive anime out there, it’s more than likely going to be Code Geass. It makes a lot of sense in hindsight: the more popular an anime is, the more people are going to criticize/bash it (rightfully or wrongfully is personal opinion). It was about a year or so after i started watching anime when the buzz about Code Geass started to grow.
As a curious average anime viewer, i wanted to see what exactly drew so many people to love this show and i can see why. Code Geass grabbed me from the start with the brilliant portrayal of Lelouch Lamperouge, seemingly normal but an heir to the royal Britannian throne currently held by his father, Charles. Little did any of us viewers would soon realize the massive strategic expertise Lelouch possessed combined with a vow to make the world a better place for his sister Nunally would divide viewers for many years to come as to what kind of person Lelouch is and how his ideals conflicted with others.
When i saw on MAL (MyAnimeList) that Death Note was by far the most recommended series to Code Geass watchers, it really didn’t surprise me at all. Sure, DN has no mechs, pales in comparison to Sunrise in terms of animation quality and fanservice isn’t shoved down your throat as much as CG does, but they share one very important trait: strategic anti-heroes. Both Light and Lelouch acquire a power unlike any other and from there they seek to change the world, to rid it of its evils. Where these shows diverge is the decisions/actions our main characters take. (anymore and i’ll spoil DN to those who haven’t seeen it).
But regardless, i enjoyed every second of CG and i’m glad i saw it when the hype was growing fast for it. It has driven intense opinions on both sides from the purists who claim it to be impeccable and those who slam it as pretentious and one-sided melodrama. I firmly place myself in the middle of both of those claims.
Animation: 9/10 – Very solid from Sunrise, and it’s better than some currently airing series so far, and it’s been almost 5 years since Code Geass first aired. I really loved the knightmare frame designs the most and they blended in very well with the art.
Story: 9/10 – From the first episode, CG knew exactly what it set out to do with strong character development, intense back and forth strategic planning from the Black Knights and Britannia and a bit of slow but worthwhile episodes. I honestly can’t believe the last two episodes happened the way they did.
Music: 9/10 – It’s very hard to believe the composer for Code Geass (and R2) also composed the soundtrack for Hayate no Gotoku! Regardless, i really loved the music and in my opinion, it brought more emotion, depth and suspense to the series and for that i have to commend it.
Characters: 9/10 – Before talking about Lelouch, i think the rest of the cast really shined on their own merits. Yes, i hate Suzaku for all he’s done in the series but the staff does a wonderful job portraying both sides of the war with sharp commentary and insight from the good guys and the bad guys. A bit more attention should have been diverted to Ashford Academy’s students and Mao wasn’t a very likeable character at all.
Enjoyment: 10/10 – Looking back when i first finished season 1, i really thought of it as a mindblowing, engaging and outstanding series rivaled by none, being my #1 series of all time. Now, 5 years later struggling to stay in the top 5 is more of a testament to how much my viewing tastes have changed. If it weren’t for Code Geass, i wouldn’t have had any interest in any anime shows. Flawed it may be, but it was one hell of a ride and Sunrise knew exactly what to give to the viewers.
Wow, when people said that a show about a game about memorizing poems (karuta) is a contender for best anime series of Fall 2011, i was very skeptical. Sports animes are not my thing at all, but seeing the great reception and praise Chihayafuru has gotten i decided “Why, not?” and began watching the first 5 episodes.
Stunning. I’m trying to compose a better word (heck, a better sentence) to start off my thoughts on this show but i’m just so blown away at how amazing this show is. Chihayafuru centers on a girl named Chihaya as she realizes her own dream to rise in the ranks of competitive karuta play, with the help of her two friends Arata and Taichi. Needless to say, that description alone may have drove me away from seeing such a beautiful and thoughtful anime series. While Chihayafuru does center on competitive karuta, the show’s real strength is the characters. Chihaya is the kind of character you’re going to root for from the very beginning. She’s a bit of an airhead, but her willingness to go far and beyond to help others is remarkable. This is how she met Arata, the quiet social outcast. Even repeated warnings from Taichi that he and the entire school would completely ignore her if she talked to Arata, that did not phase Chihaya one bit. It’s refreshing to see a character like Chihaya easily go out of her way to help others without a care as to what repercussions may be.
On the flipside, Taichi comes across as the arrogant and jealous third wheel in the circle of friends. Part of this stems from his competitive nature, especially when he has to bear constricting pressure from his demanding parents. Again, it’s refreshing that Taichi has already matured enough to where he is truly conflicted about his feelings for Chihaya. Finally, we have Arata. Shy and somewhat poor, he is already ostracized from the entire school for this. Yet Chihaya does not want him to be lonely and strikes a formal friendship with him. It soon becomes evident, after seeing Arata play Karuta, that Chihaya realizes her own dream is to be the best Karuta player and not be her older sister’s cheerleader. Their friendship is bound together by the game and when the sudden news of Taichi’s transfer to a more prestigious middle school and Arata moving back home to Fukui to see his grandfather (a legend in Karuta circles himself), Chihaya does not take the news well and by that she holds on to the belief that everyone will still play Karuta and one day their passion will lead them back to each other.
It’s refreshing to see an anime like Chihayafuru grace us with their presence. The visuals, courtesy of Madhouse, are sweet and delicate and reflect the overall feel of the show. But the real strength lies in the music. A soft, delicate and precise soundtrack is a bit out of reach for most animes nowadays but Chihayafuru knows exactly when to reach for the viewer’s heartstrings and the viewer’s attention. This show is sweet, a tad realistic and occasionally funny but as of now it knows how to balance itself out. Let’s hope that with 25 episodes, Chihayafuru doesn’t turn into another Angel Beats!.
Current Score: 4/5