121 (edited by CX 2011-03-28 22:43)

Re: Anime review thread

High School of the Dead
(12 episode series)

Ever wonder what it'd be like if Japan did its own version of a zombie movie?  Well, this is pretty much it.  Like most modern zombie shows, it constantly refers to zombie movies and has fun with the fourth wall.  But then, it never really does seem to take itself all that seriously, and a lot of that has to do with the massive amount of fan service the show has.  Not only do all of the women who end up surviving have large breasts, but at least once every few minutes we see them bounce around in an exaggerated fashion and/or a panty shot of some kind.  So shots like this are very common, right from the first few minutes of the show.


Even the occasional zombie gets this treatment.

Other than that, the only real difference from most zombie shows is the flashy way in which zombies are dealt with, and how quickly people who are bitten die and become zombies themselves.  There also seems to be a mix between the classic shamblers and the more modern sprinting variety.  There's also the way the world apparently isn't satisfied with how quickly the world is ending, so a bunch of world powers decide to nuke each other.  Other than that, it's a fairly typical story about how our main characters have to balance hardening themselves so they can survive without becoming completely inhuman themselves, contrasting this with other survivors.  Believe it or not, that story was actually somewhat interesting, enough so that I actually marathonned this overnight when I had only intended to watch an episode or two before turning in for the night.  The only real disappointment there was that the story didn't really end, and it's doubtful it ever will get an ending, at least in anime form from what I hear.

It takes getting past all the blatant fan service and the harem aspect of this series to really enjoy it, but the show doesn't make that easy.  In the first few episodes, it goes as far as to use silly cartoon sound effects for the busty nurse's various parts as they bounce around.  The opening titles also let you know what the show's real focus is, so it's easy to tell that the show isn't really taking itself seriously the way most other zombie shows do.  At first it made me laugh, but after a while it just made me roll my eyes, and this is coming from someone who actually kind of likes fan service.  Still, I couldn't help but be reminded of Divergence Eve, which had a sci-fi plot that might have otherwise been taken somewhat seriously, but instead focuses on fan service.

As for the characters, there isn't a whole lot to say about them.  The leader of the group and the protagonist of the show is Takashi Komuro.  He's the "average" high school student with the typical drama issues when the zombie apocalypse first arrives at his school.  He's also the apparent romantic interest of pretty much every female survivor in his group, except for the token loli they rescue along the way.  In fact, the only other dude in the group is a gun nerd, who's there to make gun nerds feel good about how useful their knowledge would be during a situation like this, and to help the show pander it's other form of fan service – guns.  Other than that, there isn't much interesting about the characters specifically, aside from the one who apparently gets turned on by violence.  Yes, at one point while slaughtering zombies, they actually have her inform the audience that she's wet.  At some points the characters are somewhat sympathetic because of everything that's going on, but at others the characters, in particular the female characters, are just bitchy and annoying.

If you like fan service and you like zombie movies, you'll probably like this series.  If not, you'll probably just find this show every bit as obnoxious as it is.  5/10.


Re: Anime review thread

Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance
(2009 movie)

This movie marks the beginning of what are some much more obvious deviations from the series.  It starts things off by introducing us to a new character, Mari Illustrious Makinami, a red-headed teenaged girl who seems older than the other Eva pilots.  There's also the implication that she's using her masters as much as they are using her, whatever that means.  There are a few other changes that I'll get into later, but the most positive one has to be Shinji.  He still acts like a loser when it comes to Asuka (now with a different last name), but overall he's definitely a lot less whiny and useless.  But I'm actually still kind of neutral in how I feel about this movie, and to be frank a lot of that has to do with the somewhat lighter tone the movie seems to take at times.  It also doesn't help that the soundtrack went from the more dramatic instrumental/choir music to light J-Pop music that honestly felt inappropriately happy at points in the movie that should have been serious and dramatic.

The plot was also kind of "meh."  I mean, it was okay, but not a lot happened overall.  Mainly we got introduced to Mari and Asuka, and learned that Asuka was a self-important bitch all over again.  Asuka showed up with Unit 02, bragged about it, and got to fight some more attacking angels that showed up.  One of the highlights there was that all three of the children had to work together to kill one of them.  Then one of the really major changed happened, because the Eva unit that turns into an angel isn't piloted by Shinji's friend from school, it's piloted by Asuka, so it makes it that much more dramatic, I think, when Shinji is made to attack her Eva and nearly kill her in the process.  Actually, even the "dummy plug" auto-pilot from the series is different, too, and is a mechanical device inside the pilot's capsule, and it clamped down on his hands along with the controls in order to take out the possessed Eva, so Gendo literally had it use Shinji's hands to almost kill Asuka, though at the time he'd thought that it had succeeded.  That kind of made it a little better, in my opinion, and I really felt for Shinji as he went ape-shit and actually attacked NERV headquarters.

This marks the beginning of Shinji really standing up for himself, and the great thing is that he kept on doing it.  Another great character change was Rei, who actually showed some emotion and actually was somewhat proactive in trying to get Shinji and Gendo to get along as father and son, or at least she tried until the business with the possessed Eva.  It actually made it a bit more poignant when it looked like she was going to sacrifice herself again and we'd lose all that character development, just like in the series.  Fortunately, this is where Shinji standing up for himself comes into play, and he actually goes pretty far to save her after she was literally absorbed by the last angel attack of the movie.  And by "absorbed", I mean the thing ate her along with the top part of her Eva, and then turned into something that looked an awful lot like the Lilith/Rei from the End of Evangelion movie.  As for Mari, well, I'm not sure what to make of her yet.  Basically she showed up all covert like (and Shinji even played along) and hijacked Unit 2 (Asuka's Eva). 

I guess something seemingly new to me and worth mentioning is that there seems to be a lot more danger with using the Eva units, since apparently dropping down to the bottom of the pilot's capsule will turn the kids into angels, apparently, as will taking some kind of safeties off of the Eva units themselves that look kind of like control rods from a nuclear reactor.  Apparently in rescuing Rei, Shinji damn near started off the end of the world, and while I vaguely remember that this happened in the series, I don't remember how they resolved it.  As far as I can remember it was just resolved off screen somehow.  This time, it's resolved by the appearance of that creepy kid, Kaworu Nagisa, you know, the one that made Shinji a slashfic writer's dream.  Apparently he came from the moon, where Seele, the evil organization from the series, seems to have a secret base, where Gendo and his buddy both saw him out on the surface with no suit.  So there's no subtlety this time around, and it kind of leaves me wondering what's going to happen next.

At least there was only one damn train scene this time. 

This was an okay movie, though I would say that I feel slightly let down from the first movie.  I'm still kind of looking forward to what might happen in the next movie, so hopefully that won't let me down by making Shinji go back to being a whiny, useless bitch.  7/10.


Re: Anime review thread

The Vision of Escaflowne
(26 episode series)

My first experience with this series actually came with the heavily edited version Fox Kids aired during the summer before my senior year of high school.  As soon as I saw it I was interested in it, but soon afterwards Fox cancelled it, much to my disappointment at the time.  I actually went looking for the series on DVD, but since Fox Kids had changed the name along with everything else, I didn't realize what I was actually looking for.  As you can see, though, I eventually figured it out and I've finally gotten around to watching it the way it was supposed to be seen.  The story is definitely better and makes a bit more sense, but I have to admit that I liked the Fox Kids opening better than the original one.

The setting of this show is kind of an anachronistic mix between a medieval fantasy land with dragons and a kind of steampunk world that uses technology that is seemingly out of place there.  This is how they're able to have giant mechas in an otherwise non-technological setting, I guess.  Actually it's kind of cool because the story lets itself touch on various aspects of how these things came to be, and a lot of it has to do with the main antagonist, Emperor Dornkirk of the Zaibach Empire.  They also have a kind of natural levitating stone that many of the locals have used to harness the power of flight for everything from a small plane-sized craft up to floating castles.

The series itself focuses on a female protagonist, Hitomi Kanzaki from Japan.  She was a mostly typical high school student (those sure do seem common in anime) up until the male lead, Van Fanel, king of Fanelia, appears in a pillar of light, followed shortly afterwards by a dragon.  I say "mostly typical" because the series explains that she's always had something of a psychic gift, though until the series starts, this has been limited to tarot card readings.  Shortly before Van shows up, she starts having full on visions.  To make a long story short, she ends up being taken back with Van to his home planet, Gaea, on the surface of which can be seen both the moon and Earth, which the locals call the Mystic Moon.  And if the dragon showing up wasn't weird and threatening enough, some furries show up and greet them.

At first there isn't a whole lot that happens, but soon Fanelia is invaded by invisible mechas, called guymelefs, from the Zaibach Empire.  This also introduces us to Dilandau Albatou, a rather young and bloodthirsty antagonist who leads a special forces group called the Dragon Slayers on this attack.  Fanelia falls and is burned to the ground, but Van and Hitomi escape.  This actually provides much of the excitement and drama early on, as Van and Hitomi try to escape from Dilandau and the other Zaibach forces that have been sent after them by Emperor Dornkirk.  Dornkirk has some kind of massive "fate" machine he is using for seemingly evil ends and he sees Van's guymelef Escaflowne as a threat due to its somewhat mystical nature.  It's actually technologically inferior to Zaibach's guymelefs, which can shoot fire and use a liquid metal to form spikes and swords not unlike the T-1000 from Terminator 2.  Van also isn't exactly the best fighter either, but Hitomi is able to help level the playing field with her psychic abilities, such as being able to see through the invisibility cloaks Dilandau and his forces use.

Once Van and Hitomi meet up with second male protagonist Allen Schezar, the story becomes much bigger, as there is now a fight on with the entirety of Gaea at risk.  Not only is Zaibach seemingly bent on world conquest with a technologically superior military, but the planet itself is apparently at risk from the same technology that had destroyed Atlantis.

That's right, Atlantis was apparently behind the creation of Gaea, following the destruction of Atlantis itself.  This is also why there's apparently so much going on with dimensional rifts on Gaea, as well as between Gaea and Earth.  Van's mother was actually one of the decedents of the Atlantians, called Draconian by all the normal humans on Gaea due to the wings they sport and the seeming black magic of their technology and abilities to alter luck and fate.  This means that Van himself, as well as his apparently turncoat brother, Folken Fanel, also sport wings.

I don’t think there's much more I can say about the story and the setting without just summarizing the entire series, so I'm going to stop while I'm ahead.  I'll just say that it was a really interesting story that took place in an intriguing world.  The pacing of the story itself was nice and even, never dragging to slow as it explained and set things up, or surrendering entirely to the action and battles that also took place.

The characters were also very interesting, and even though there are quite a few of them, they all tend to stand out on their own enough to be memorable.  As you might guess, not all that many of them get developed much, but what development does take place is, for the most part, pretty good.  Hitomi herself is a refreshingly different female protagonist in that while the male leads at times get pushy and want to exploit her powers more, will stand up for herself and refuse. She does tend to get kidnapped a lot, and can't really defend herself outside of her psychic abilities, but it's worth noting that she wasn't at the complete beck and call of the male leads either, especially since the visions she had took something of a toll on her.

Van and Allen are also somewhat interesting characters with complex backgrounds, though at times they seemed a little underdeveloped.  Allen is basically the noble knight type, a natural leader who's easy to like.  However, he hates his father for going off in search of the Mystic Valley of the Draconians and never returning, as soon afterwards his mother also died and left him and his sister alone.  Then not long after that, his sister disappeared.  This did serve to give him a connection to Van, however, as Van's mentor also finds Allen and mentors him.  As for Van, he's somewhat different in that he doesn't like to fight, though he is soon hardened by having to do so.

The antagonists are also given somewhat interesting backgrounds, too, and even made not so completely evil.  Take Van's borther, Folken.  Not only did he defect to Zaibach when he was supposed to be doing the dragon hunt we later see Van go on in order to become king, but he also ends up leading the attack that would end up razing Fanelia to the ground.  Van ends up hating his brother for good reason because of that and because of his continued efforts to capture Van along with Escaflowne.  But it's also completely obvious that Folken still cares for his brother, and after Emperor Dornkirk shows what a cold bastard he is, Folken later comes over to his brother's side.

Then there's bloodthirsty Dilandau.  He totally comes off as the stereotypical stuck up royal pain in the ass to go along with being a completely evil bastard who likes killing and destroying.  But he also has an interesting background, and even before we learn it, the series actually manages to paint him in a semi-sympathetic light by having him go through a mental breakdown following the wholesale slaughter of his Dragon Slayer squad by Van.  And then we find out "he" is actually Allen's lost sister, who was turned into the bloodthirsty Dilandau by Dornkirk's scientists through cruel experimentation.  It also kind of complicates things when this is revealed to Allen.

Hell, even Emperor Dornkirk is given some ambiguity to his character, even though he's easily still one of the most evil of the main characters.  It's strongly hinted at that he's actually Isaac Newton, resurrected on Gaea through sheer force of will alone upon his death on Earth.  When he first appears in Zaibach, it's basically a third world country, and he helps them to become a world power through his scientific knowledge.  So basically he's a Hitler analogue, but unlike Hitler he isn't after world domination so much as he actually wants to create a peaceful world where everyone can be granted their wishes.  Unfortunately, he's so obsessed with the Atlantian technology to make this happen that he no longer cares about human life, and will kill anyone who gets in his way.  His conquering of other kingdoms is solely aimed at getting what he needs for the machine he's built, but that doesn't change the fact Zaibach has devastated so much of Geaa.

What it comes down to is that everyone is given believable motivations for what they are doing during the story.

That being said, this series isn't without its own weaknesses.  The first one is kind of understandable in that while the pace wasn't exactly all that fast, they didn't want to slow things down too much.  This resulted in a lot of things happening solely for the benefit of the story.  Right off the bat, there's no explanation for how or why Van and the dragon ended up on Earth, or most of the other times they're conveniently transported somewhere by a beam of light.  Then there are things like Dilandau/ Celena ending up where he/she need to be so Allen can see the change take place to know that Dilandau is actually his sister, right before being conveniently beamed back to Zaibach.

For me, though, the biggest weakness of this series was the soap opera romance story.  Basically Hitomi already likes a guy on Earth when she ends up being spirited away to Gaea.  It also just so happens that Allen looks a lot like this guy, so she ends up having a crush on him.  But then, Van is the male lead and the first guy from Gaea she ever met, and since they both end up saving each other's lives more than once, she also has a crush on him.  So the series tries to make this dramatic by bouncing her between her love for each of these three guys, and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at all of it.  I can tell that this was a story element aimed at the teenaged girls in the audience, but in my opinion it rang false and actually hurt the story and the characters a bit.  It was also completely obvious who she was going to end up deciding on.

Oh, and just in case the teenaged male demographic felt left out on the whole pointless fan service area, the show gave them this:
Not only are they furries, but they're twin sisters.  I'm sure some people will like this, but I didn't.  At least the bottom one there wasn't really into it.  Eh, it's not like they end up being all that important anyway, aside from helping Folken to switch sides again.

Anyway, I can definitely say that for the most part I really like this series.  It has something that can probably appeal to most anyone, and even though its age is showing a bit, it's still very enjoyable to watch.  I would definitely recommend this series, especially if you can get into medieval fantasy stories.  8/10.


Re: Anime review thread

Voices of a Distant Star
(single episode OVA)

Unfortunately, while I kind of liked this OVA, there isn't a lot I can say about it, because there simply isn't a lot there.  The OVA itself is only 25 minutes long, and much like Pale Cocoon, it left me wishing that there was more.  It also leaves its protagonist with an uncertain fate that actually looks kind of bad for them.

The story is about a long-distance relationship between Mikako Nagamine and her boyfriend, Noboru Terao, and by "long-distance", I mean interplanetary and then interstellar.  By some magic their cell phones' texting abilities are still able to reach out across this impossible distance to allow Mikako to talk to Noboru, though the texts only travel at the speed of light, meaning her messages, though sent out basically one right after the other, reach Earth at longer and longer spans of time apart.  So for the most part the story focuses on this drama.  In fact, the plot, which is about a war between humanity and an alien race known as the Tarsians is actually pretty much in the background.  That's somewhat unfortunate, because there was so much there that I found interesting.  Actually, while I like character drama, I feel that in this case too much emphasis was placed on it here, because while character drama can really add to a story, when it becomes the story itself it tends not to be as good or as interesting in my opinion.

There are some problems I have with the show aside from that misplaced focus, but for the most part this is detail oriented thanks to that misplaced focus.  For instance, Mikako is 15 years old, but she was recruited by the United Nations Space Army to go fight aliens with giant mecha (called Tracers here).  So basically this is one of those animes that Sky Crawlers was criticizing along with other shows, like Evangelion.  Maybe there would have been some convoluted explanation for the UN using children as combat pilots as well, and maybe even the laughable use of giant humanoid mecha in space, but for me these are both weak points against shows like these.  This is actually somewhat heightened by the fact Mikako doesn't wear a military uniform, but instead stays in the same skirted school uniform we see her in during the flashback that takes up most of the OVA.

As for the characters, well, again, there just isn't much to go off of.  I mean, they're both sad at their separation, but that's about all we can get out of it other than that they both also undergo a little growth – Mikako is a little hardened by her combat experience and Noboru goes from being depressed because he initially flunked out of the Self-Defense Force and was thus separated from Mikako to working hard to get into it at the end of the OVA.  He's also pretty much gotten over her by that point, or so it seems, and who can blame him?

This OVA was interesting enough to watch, but I can't help but feel a bit indifferent about it because there just isn't much there.  Maybe if this had been a pilot to a fully-fledged show it might have been better, but that just isn't the case unfortunately, and it feels like the show ended without a resolution. And as for the character drama, well, I've seen this kind of stuff before and it really wasn't all that special on its own, so I just didn't really get emotionally involved at all.  It isn't bad exactly, but it didn't impress me either.  6/10.


Re: Anime review thread

Toward the Terra
(1980 movie)

Gads this movie was bad, in pretty much the same way the 1980 Cyborg 009 movie was bad – loads of corn and preaching without much of an interesting plot to hold it together.  Actually I'd say the main problem with the plot it that there seemed to be way too much of it to fit into just one movie.  I guess that didn't stop whoever made this from, trying, though.

The story follows a young protagonist, Jomy Marcus Shin, as he's about to become an adult at the ripe old age of 14.  This goes hand in hand with the backstory of most of humanity having escaped to the stars following the virtual destruction of Earth's environment and ecosystem.  Following this, for no rational reason, they apparently decided to just let computers run everything.  And not just any computers, but telepathic super-computers.  As part of this Brave New Word (*cough*), humans are now "rationally" grown completely artificially and raised by random couples in a colony that's supposed to look like some random Earth city.  Jomy is one of these people, and like a lot of young people he doesn't want to grow up just yet and he also questions the system, especially since the system is bent on taking him away from the parents he's grown to love.  Unfortunately for him, the computers that run everything don't like being questioned and tend to have people like Jomy killed, especially if wiping their memories doesn't work.  It doesn't help that Jomy is also a Mu, or a human who has developed telepathic and/or telekinetic abilities.  The computers also hate those people and wages a campaign to have all of them killed.

Jomy is actually saved by the Mu, and is taken in by their leader who's actually named Soldier Blue for some reason.  Anyway, naturally having been trained from a very young age to hate the Mu has made Jomy very resistant to being around the Mu, let alone accepting that he's actually one of them.  That actually might've been an interesting story, but since they had to try to cram so much into this movie, that's over in like five minutes and Jomy actually ends up taking on Jomy's memories and leading the Mu.  Convinced that there is a way the Mu can peacefully resolve their differences with the rest of humanity, he actually ends up leading the Mu to settle on a colony world that Earth had actually abandoned, where they then live out a luddite fantasy of farming and having kids the old fashioned way.

At one point we meet who's kind of the main antagonist but not really, Keith Anyan.  Truth be told, his character was probably one of the worst handled of the bunch.  He's supposed to be an "Elite", but basically he's a human who was rapidly grown to adulthood in a tank by the computer, specifically so he and others like him could be absolutely under the command and control of the "Grand Mother" computer that's running Earth, and to be resistant to the telepathic attacks of the Mu.  To do this, he was apparently created fro the ovum of one of the main Mu characters, a blind woman we meet not long into the movie, and seemingly just for that connection.  Unfortunately this comes off as forced, as does the ambiguity they try to give Keith.  I mean, they sort of try to make him sympathetic in that he seems to feel sorry at times for killing people when the computer orders him to, and he does rescue another adult human who just spontaneously becomes a Mu one day.  On the other hand he's shown to be a completely cold bastard, and he does his damndest to exterminate the Mu even though they were just sitting minding their own business on that farm planet.

I guess the ambiguity comes from the fact that Keith eventually catches on to what's going on.  Early on, he wonders aloud why the Mu are even allowed to be born, since all humans are now artificially created anyway, and the genes that produce them could in all likelihood be found and eliminated.  This actually goes on to prove somewhat important later on, when Keith finally turns on the computer, though not before he follows its orders to shoot Jomy.  It really wasn't all that surprising when the reason was revealed, which turned out to be so that humanity had a common enemy among them to keep fighting, and to keep relying on the computers to run everything for them.

There's also another character, Tony, who was one of the first naturally born among the Mu.  He ends up leading the Mu on a campaign of slaughter himself while Jomy is conveniently sealed off from everyone.  It's understandable what with hoe Keith is basically responsible for his mother's death, but to be fait Tony was also trying to kill Keith at the time, and that was when Tony as 5 years old.  Then at the end of the movie, with the big bad computer destroyed, humanity in disarray, and the Mu having returned to Earth, Tony and a few of his fellow young people decide to head off on their own, because for some reason he figures they'll be the new enemy.  It isn't really explained all that well, pretty much like everything else in this movie.

To be honest, I'm surprised I was able to write this much about such a stinker of a movie.  I guess that's because I recognized that there was some potential here that just got lost in everything being crammed in all at once.  On the other hand, it had one of those really preachy, anti-technology, pro-environment, "you shouldn't fight anyone even though they're trying to kill you" messages that I've seen more than once in sci-fi in general, but especially in sci-fi anime.  2/10.


Re: Anime review thread

Toward the Terra
(24 episode series)

This series was 200% better than the movie that came out almost 20 years before it.  It actually managed to make the movie make more sense, though to be fair, being able to explain characters and what's going on in the story is a lot easier to do in a series than a movie thanks to actually having time to do so.  It kind of makes me wonder why anyone would try to cram such a lengthy and complex story into a slightly less than 2 hour long movie, anyway.  But enough about that.

The story of the series is probably 95% identical to the movie.  We follow protagonist Jomy Marcus Shin on a very difficult coming of age story.  The backstory here is that Earth's environment is ruined, and that Earth itself is basically abandoned save a few who are essentially guinea pigs to let humanity know when the planet has recovered enough for people to live there.  In the mean time, along with becoming completely frakked up by letting a computer control every aspect of their lives, they've made a home for themselves on many other planets in many other systems.  Jomy actually grows up along with every other human child on a planet specifically set aside for that, because the computer deems children to chaotic to allow them to be born and brought up the normal way.  Instead, they are grown artificially and raised by couples who have no blood relation to them.  When they reach age 14, they have to take an exam to enter the next stage of their lives, the exam being to see if they are actually a normal human or not, and to erase their memories.  Oh, and resist that or question any part of this rigid system, and end up getting killed.

That's what almost happened to Jomy, as he failed the "actually a normal human" part of the exam along with the getting his memories erased part.  Fortunately for him, he's rescued by a group of telepaths/telekinetics who call themselves the Mu.  The Mu are hunted down and killed without mercy by normal humans at the behest of the oddly emotional computer called Grand Mother which runs everything through numbered Terra computers.  For the most part humans do so without question, as they've been brainwashed into seeing the Mu as their enemy, what with the whole being able to read minds thing and being damn dirty mutants.  So, as one would expect, Jomy actually isn't happy with being taken in by the Mu and in fact believes they interfered and caused the situation he's in as far as being a hunted individual. It also didn't help that they all bombarded him with their telepathic mojo as soon as he stepped on board their huge whale ship.

The Mu are initially lead by a character named Soldier Blue, so named because he's the head warrior of the group, and because of the type of telepathic./telekinetic power he has, which is quite powerful.  He and his people have been hanging out in a huge ship they call the Shangri-La, but everyone else calls Moby Dick due to its resemblance to a giant white whale.  The series actually differs a bit from the movie here in that this is their only ship for the most part, and it actually kind of looks cool instead of completely fugly.  Anyway, they hang out in the clouds of this child-rearing planet in order to rescue kids like Jomy who get found out to be Mu, hopefully before they actually get found out.  This doesn't work out so well for them when they rescue Jomy because they get found out and have to leave the planet.

Jomy ends up becoming the leader of the Mu, having inherited the job and the memories from Soldier Blue.  Blue isn't doing very well as he's actually 300 years old and he never had a very strong body to begin with.  He ends up staying in a coma until it's convenient for him to heroically sacrifice his life, after giving Jomy the cool headphones.  In the meantime, Jomy's childhood friends have passed their adulthood exams and have become students at one of apparently several high school/university stations used for the final education of humans designed to fit them into a cog within society.  It also just so happens this is the station experimenting with making designer humans who are resistant to psychic attacks in addition to being obedient and unemotional pricks.  This is where we meet Keith Anyan, said prick.

Actually, the nice thing about Keith is that while it's obvious that he's supposed to be the bad guy, and they really drill it into our heads that humanity has become Nazis, they do show a sympathetic side to him through his friendship to Sam Houston (possibly more than friends in Keith's head), who was actually Jomy's best friend during their childhood.  There are times that he's both a complete monster, and yet it's slowly revealed that he's simply acting this way, and truly does regret the vast majority of the things he's done.  It's bit confusing why he still does them, but I love the complexity in the character, as I do in any character for that matter.  It's just too bad about the Nazi thing

Space Nazis – a staple of sci-fi since 1946.

I guess they thought they had to make it really obvious that humanity was Nazis to make sure that we knew the Mu were supposed to be space Jews instead of space gays, which really, if you think about it, it could totally be interpreted that way.  Not only are they usually found out in the beginning of puberty, but even though they're still the same exact people they always were, they suddenly get treated like monsters by everyone they've trusted their entire lives.  But really you could insert any minority group there and it would work; I just found something to amuse myself with a little bit.  That and how practically every sound effect has been ripped off from either Star Trek or Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Really though, the whole argument about who's a monster is one of the best things about this show, because really both sides have shown they can be monsters.  The humans as monsters part is pretty obvious, but while the Mu start out being more of the mind to run and hide out, they also tend to treat people different from themselves like crap.  Jomy at first exhibited no outward sign of being a Mu, then turned out to be even more powerful than all the rest of them.  While some were cool with him and even really admired him, there were also plenty of them that treated him like a freak.  Then later on there were some other really powerful Mu that looked down on the other Mu because they thought themselves so superior, and even suggested killing Jomy and all the Mu elders.  Then Jomy leads the Mu on a war of attrition in which he orders the wholesale slaughter of humans, even if they try to surrender.  The only exception he makes is for a woman who was a friend of his as a child.  Even some of the Mu are appalled at this, though many others are totally for it because of how humans tried to slaughter them.

There's a definite parallel drawn between Jomy and Keith as well.  Both go through journeys in which they learn the truth about their paths and lament how things have come to pass, though each of them reacts to it differently.  This is another aspect of the story I liked, even if it was kind of hammered in as a completely obvious parallel.  Both men had protégés they'd rescued as well, though Jomy definitely treats his much better.  He's actually fortunate for that, because Tony, the first naturally born Mu, is so fiercely loyal to him that when the others like him suggest taking over the Mu through a bloody coup, he makes them fall into line and stop talking like that.  Keith, on the other hand, has Jonah Matsuka, a Mu who gets found out long after he should have been, but stays loyal to Keith despite Keith treating him like crap and intimating that he's be killed soon after the Mu were wiped out.  One of them dies to save their leader while the other becomes the leader of their people.  Can you guess which one?

So the Mu eventually make it back to Earth, only to find out that 300 years apparently hasn't been long enough to restore the planet.  This contrasts it with the movie, which showed that the planet had mostly recovered.  Of course the series stops just shy of blowing Earth up in the climax of the series, and the Mu end up having to leave until Earth can recover, made all the more difficult by the set-back Grand Mother's destruction caused.  Also, while Keith asked early on in the movie's story about why the Mu simply aren't prevented from being born rather than being hunted down, this question is saved for the series's climax.  Really the answer is much more obvious since it actually makes more sense than the odd explanation the movie seemed to give.  Basically the idea was to see if the Mu actually were the next step in human evolution by making the Mu and humanity fight each other to see which would go extinct and which would survive.  So basically Darwin taken to the extreme.

Overall, I really did find this series satisfying.  It had a nice even pace that didn't drag too much or try to pacify with action or fan service.  Actually there wasn't even much fan service to speak of, which was refreshing in a way.  It had complex, interesting characters and a story that, while it could also be simplistic in some areas, was fairly complex and interesting as well.  Mostly its weaknesses come from the anvil-to-the-head environmental message which is combined with the anti-technology message that stems from a premise that doesn't really make all that much sense.  It may just be a personal bias,  but I can't see humanity handing over everything to a computer that kills them if they try to step out of line.  Talk about a robo-Hitler.  I would still recommend this series though, despite its flaws, because really it doesn't ruin the story.  8/10.


Re: Anime review thread

Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
(13 episode series)

Ah yes, the show that has apparently been the cause of so much butthurt from certain parts of the anime fandom.  And personally, I think I enjoy that fact as much as I enjoy the show itself, which is hilarious.  The key thing to enjoying this show is having a really great sense of humor when it comes to anime.  I, for example, love to make fun of anime as much as I love to watch it, because for every good anime, there're probably about ten bad ones.  Gainax seems to have a similar view on anime, which is why basically everything it makes seems to be making fun of anime as much as it celebrates it.  Of course this also seems like something that alcohol was probably involved in the creation of.  Apparently Drawn Together was a heavy inspiration as well, which is why having a warped and dirty sense of humor is also required to enjoy this show, because it tries to gross you out as much as it tries to make you laugh.

Since this show is more about having fun and trolling the average anime fan that anything else, there really isn't much of a plot to speak of.  The basic set-up, for lack of better description, is that the Anarchy sisters, Panty and Stocking, are angels who have been kicked out of heaven for being bad, and need to earn their way back by collecting enough Heaven tokens.  They collect these tokens by killing the ghosts that are constantly troubling Daten City, which is an Earthly city that is on the border between heaven and hell.  Garterbelt is an afro'd priest who keeps and eye on the sisters and hands out the marching orders they get from Heaven.  So basically every episode, which is itself split up into two episodes, involves Panty and Stocking fighting one or more ghosts with their magically transforming undergarments..  There is no real overall continuity or purpose, though, except for a few where this is done just to throw the audience off.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are actually episodes where nothing is resolved, like say the episode where everyone actually becomes a zombie.  Then the next episode everyone and everything is back to normal.  So basically it's a lot like Star Trek: Voyager. wink

It's really obvious though that the main purpose of this show is just to troll as much as possible, and by troll I mean everyone, but especially the otaku fandom that has been responsible for so much of the demand for the cutesy moe shit that has been so damn common since 2000.  Apparently it's really important for these nerds that the show's fan service be "pure", in other words a virgin, on top of being clumsy and not terribly bright.  Which is why Panty is a slut who loves sex and actually has made it a goal to have sex with 1000 men before she returns to heaven.  Then there's the animation style, which I can only really describe as something along the lines of the Powerpuff Girls or Space Invader Zim.  I'm not real familiar with the anime fandom myself, but apparently this animation style is another thing that makes a lot of otaku butthurt about this show.  And just to drive this point home, there are often segments of the show that are really well-drawn just to show they could do it if they really wanted to.  Mostly these segments coincide with the angels' transformation sequence, which itself is a shot at magical girls shows thanks to it being an out and out strip show.


While I'm sure a lot of anime fans would prefer the entire series to look like that above there, that isn't the point of the show, and if you ask why the entire show can't look like that, you have been successfully trolled.  Instead, what you can expect a lot more of from the show is this:

And I don't just mean the animation style, because the humor of the above picture is pretty much what you can come to expect from this series, too.

Another thing this show loves to do is to cram as many references to other movies and TV shows into each episode as possible, whether it's the title, dialog, action sequences, or even the character of Chuck, who is a pretty obvious call-out to Gir from Space Invader Zim.  This is also an aspect of the series I like, because, well, it's damn funny, like pretty much everything else about this show.

This isn't a show that's going to make my favorites list exactly, but it's still a pretty good show if all you want to do is watch something that's mindlessly funny.  So while I'm not going to give it an especially high score, I still like this show, and I would still recommend it to anyone looking for some good over-the-top humor.  I hope this review has at least prepared you a little for what you're in for, because this show isn't going to be for everyone.  Actually, even if you're the kind of fan this show is trolling, I would still recommend that you watch this series, because the thought of you getting offended by this show gives me an erection.




Re: Anime review thread

(6 episode OVA)

So apparently this is the show Gainax did to get away from the depression that was Neon Genesis Evangelion.  A lot of the elements are still there, though, like the whole older women wanting to have sex with a middle-school-aged boy, and a somewhat whiny male protagonist who does nothing but bitch about his lot in life.  At least in this case he isn't nearly as useless.

I'm convinced that there's a plot in this OVA somewhere, but it's really hard to make heads or tales of it.  Whatever it is exactly that happens, it follows protagonist Naota Nandaba, a twelve-year-old boy living in the completely ordinary and boring suburb of Mabase as he goes on the weirdest coming-of-age adventure anime has bothered to come up with.  And really I'm convinced that this is the entire point of the series, because thankfully, unlike Shinji, Naota actually manages to mature a little and comes out of the story a little better for it.

Basically the reason he's such a whiny little bastard for the majority of the show is that his older brother has moved to America to go to school, leaving him alone with his father and grandfather in the bakery/home they have together.  His father and grandfather are actually kind of cool, but Naota naturally feels differently.  He also has to deal with his brother's ex-girlfriend, who is a high school student and has apparently latched on to this much younger version of her old boyfriend.  She's also not terribly bright, but whatever.  That's pretty much the running theme, because in this show, all the ladies seem to love Naota.

The ladies love a guy with a nice big guitar.

There's also a girl who's much closer to his age who obviously likes him, but naturally he doesn't notice and actually doesn't want the attention that he is getting.  The attention that he likes the least is from Haruko Haruhara, the odd, pink-haired woman who he first meets when her classic Vespa Scooter runs him down and kills him, shortly before being brought back to life by a blow to the head with her pull-start blue Rickenbacker 4001 guitar and a little mouth-to-mouth.  This seems to have created some kind of odd portal in his head that generates various monsters and robots from the mysterious Medical Mechanica corporation, which has a large, iron-shaped "factory" in Mabase.  If that seems like a lot to take in, well, tough, because the OVA doesn't really care.

Haruko constantly follows Naota around, waiting for the stuff to come out of his head so she can fight it.  She does this by becoming basically whatever she needs to be, like say a nurse, or his father's live-in maid.  She also seems to delight in sexually teasing him, and trying to make him jealous by doing the same kind of things with his father.  Oh, and they constantly refer to "Fooly Cooly," which I'm convinced means the form of pedophilia when the grown-up is a woman and the kid is a boy.


All of this innuendo revolving around sex, especially as it relates to Naota is pretty much where the vast majority of the "coming of age" comes from.  Not that I'm complaining, because this is actually a big part of what makes the show so damn entertaining. 

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) this is yet another example of something Gainax has made that is mindlessly entertaining without making a whole lot of sense.  But then what else do you expect from the same people who would go on to give us Gurren Lagann and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt?  From what I've heard, the reasl reason behind this show was to try out a new animation technique, and that the story was something of an afterthought.  This actually seems to fit, because at one point there's another rather strange character who actually explains everything that's going on not unlike Mulder from The X-Files.  At first I thought this character might have only gotten things partially right, like Mulder tended to do, but after repeat viewings of the show, I'm convinced that he actually had everything completely right, like Gainax felt sorry for us and threw us a bone.

The "story" and the point of what Haruko is doing to Naota's head seems to have something to do with Haruko wanting some alien's powers to the point that she's in love with him, and she's actually trying to get him to come through the portal in Naota's head.  Everything else that comes out of there is from the apparently evil Medical Mechanica corporation, which is actually an alien invasion force bent on ironing the entire surface of the planet with giant irons pushed by giant hands.  Really.  The character, Amarao, exposits it in quite a bit of detail, actually.  He also wears the biggest eyebrows this side of the Monarch which are made out of seaweed and apparently prevent Hanuko from using his head as a portal, something he seems to have some previous experience with.

I honestly don’t know how else to describe this OVA or why it's actually a pretty good show and you should watch it.  The characters aren't really anything special, though some of them do have their moments.  Some of the fun is definitely had from trying to make some sense of the show, though to be honest I don’t really think there is much sense to be had from it.  It is a load of fun to watch, though.  7/10.


Re: Anime review thread

Puella Magi Madoka Magica
(12 episode series)

Wow, this has to be about the only magical girl anime I've ever actually enjoyed, or at least to this extent.  What does it say about me and my tastes that it's also hugely depressing and that, well, there are some similarities to Higurashi? wink

I'll try not to spoil you too much, but you have to keep in mind that this is one of my reviews, and I tend to like to talk about the stuff I wished I'd known about going into a series.  Speaking of which, I totally knew that this series would be a lot more serious and depressing than pretty much any other magical girl anime in existence thanks to another reviewer's brief commentary on this series, and in fact it's the only reason I bothered to watch this series, because as you know, magical girl anime is not a genre I typically watch unless I'm looking for some fan service or it's something that's making fun of the genre.  In this case, this series is more like a deconstruction of the genre.

For the most part we follow Madoka Kaname, a 14 year old girl with a househusband father and a cutthroat businesswoman mother.  You know, the average middle school student of the future, where schools look like glass cages (as they should).  Like most teenagers, while she doesn't really have anything to complain about, she still wishes her life was different and more exciting.  Since this is a show, naturally that's exactly what happens.


Actually the show starts us off right from its very opening with this weird South Park-ish magical world where all the fights take place, and in doing so it not only introduces us to the kind of weirdness seen above, but gives us a hint that this show isn't so much about magical girls taking skyscrapers to the face as it is about them getting worn out and suffering deadly consequences if they fail.  Yup, that's right, in this show magical girls die and are not brought back to life.  Oh, for the first couple of episodes the show tries to fake us out, in more ways than one.  The first is by introducing Homura Akemi as a strange transfer student who comes off as a possible villain.  It isn't until later that we learn the reason why she's so hostile toward Madoka and her friend Sayaka Miki.  Of course by that time, we've already seen a magical girl die a horrific death by being eaten by the cutest witch/monster caterpillar ever.

And that's a big part of why I liked this series.  It's kind of like Higarashi that way – it contrasts cuteness with horrific things happening.  And this in turn contrasts this show with other magical girl shows, because while other shows of this type tend to play up how awesome it is to be a magical girl because they have flashy cloths, fight monsters, and save the world while balancing school and a social life, this one shows us what's being glossed over.  These are children.  Constant combat will wear down even adults who are mentally prepared for it, and the consequence of failure is death.  Most of the drama in these shows is derived from the possibility that the magical girls might fail, but they always win in the end.  It's even been brought to my attention that Sailor Moon actually died to push this even further, but she was still brought back to fight and defeat the bad guys in the end (as far as I know).  That doesn't happen here.

Like pretty much every magical girl show, there's a cute little magical animal companion, usually a cat.  In this case it's kind of like a cat, but instead it's an alien named Kyubey and his job seems to be recruiting young girls into making contracts with him to fight and destroy witches.  He'll even let the potential recruits tag along on missions with current Puella Magi to get a taste of what they're in for.  Like any recruiter he plays up how awesome it is to be a magical girl, and he even promises to grant any wish the girls can think of in exchange for a life-long commitment to serve as a Pulla Magi.  If that sounds like making a contract with the devil, well, they kind of gave that away by giving Kyubey beady red eyes.  I don't care how cute and cat-like an alien is, you just can't trust a face like this:

God he's creepy....

In any case, though they witness the horrific death of a Puella Magi and are constantly being warned off by Homura that they are getting in way over their heads, Sayaka is guilt-tripped by a boy she likes into making a contract because he really liked playing violin and because of a crippling accident, he can't anymore.  You can guess what he wish was?  And since this show lives on being depressing, the little bastard doesn't end up hooking up with Sayaka, and she spirals into self-destruction, just so we can see exactly what witches are, and how horrible and alien Kyubey really is.  Which to be fair, his being horrible has mostly to do with his being alien, what with completely lacking human emotions and anything resembling morality.  Which just makes him all the creepier.  Then, to depress us even more, we get to find out just how like Higarashi this show is by the revelation that Homura's magical power is time manipulation, and she's actually been going back in time multiple times in a so far fruitless effort to keep Makoda from becoming a Puella Magi and dying soon afterwards while fighting a hopeless battle against a really powerful witch.  So, much like Rika Furude, Homura isn't exactly the pleasant moe blob she started out as anymore.  The really fun part is that in one time loop she tried to warn them all, but seeing the ultimate fate of Puella Magi, one of the especially nice and friendly ones goes nuts and kills most of the rest of them.

The one let-down for me was kind of a big one in that the ending was pretty much a cheat.  I have to admit that there isn't a whole lot they could have done because they'd essentially written themselves into a corner, but this is probably because the pacing had been set too slow for such a short series.  Now, I'm not saying the show was boring, and to be fair, I tend to like it when a show takes its time, slowly unraveling everything for us, but when there were only 12 episodes to play around with, saving the resolution for the last episode kind of made it come off as very sudden and a cheat.  I say cheat because the ending basically was a way for the show to have both a happy and a depressing ending, both resolving the series and leaving it unresolved.  It could be that the creative staff is trying to hook us for another season, but at the same time there isn't a lot they can do without again cheating, the same way Code Geass did.

The characters in this show were for the most part kind of "meh."  The focus is fairly limited, so we don’t get to learn all that much about anyone other than Madoka, Sayaka, and Homura.  To be honest I didn't care much for Madoka.  As was pointed out by Homura in the show, she's kind of selfish and honestly seems to be depressed about nothing.  She has a loving, wealthy family, at least two close friends, and yet feels like something is missing in her life even before the whole magical girl thing comes up.  So I found her kind of boring.  Sayaka, honestly not a whole lot better.  For me, Homura was the interesting one.  She went through hell and was very versatile despite not having the kind of flashy powers the other Puella Magi had.  Instead, she used her time manipulation power to steal guns that she hid in her own version of hammer space.  She was also a very pragmatic character, and I dig that.  The only other character I much cared for was ironically Kyubey.  I thought he was written fairly well as far as the alien aspect of him.  Much like the Borg from Star Trek, he honestly thinks he's doing these girls a favor, even if he's actually doing something quite horrible to them.  He honestly doesn't understand why the things he does end up disturbing some of the girls he makes contracts with, because an alien probably wouldn't. 

While the ending was kind of a let-down, I would still recommend that you check this series out, even if the whole magical girl thing isn't normally what you'd watch.  If you stick it through to the third episode, this series will surprise you, hopefully to your enjoyment.  8/10.

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