Thursday, June 10, 2010

The good, the average and the atrocious, May 2010

My watching activity this month started out on a great note. My parents and pesky brother had vanished into the cold and rainy forests and fields of Holland to go camping and I wasn’t sorry at all that I couldn’t go with them (no vacation at university). So, they were gone (sadly I still live at home, but then again, I rather watch anime than work for living expenses :-P. Guess I’m pretty lazy), and I attempted to break my record of the amount of watched episodes a day. I succeeded – I broke my previous 38 episodes record and achieved watching 50 episodes in one day. I watched from 9.00 am to 5.30 am. It felt crazy, but also really good, just to have done this once :D.

Sadly, as is always the case when you experience good things, a lot of obstructions to the path of anime addiction also inevitably showed up. I somehow managed to learn one of my big boring exams in 6 days, then pulled an all-nighter to finish a report, shortly, university was a total bitch to me. As if this wasn’t bad enough, internet suddenly decided to break down (download speed slower than 1 MB, omfg T_T) so I couldn’t watch anime, download anything, or even read manga… In other words, I practically had no internet for 1½ week and it seriously pissed me off. Anyway, since all this happened I still have a somewhat meager monthly average of 8.3 eps a day, in spite of my great efforts in the beginning of this month >_>. Thanks to internet I also didn’t manage to wrap up a few of the series I’d been meaning to finish, but well, guess that’s what’s June for now T_T. June will be a fine opportunity for watching a lot of anime because I hardly have to show my face at university :-D. Well, now you’ve read all this stuff about me you obviously don’t care about, let’s move on to my actual watching activities.

Antique Bakery, 4 stars. A small but high-quality bakery is run by four handsome men with different backgrounds: Tachibana, the one who decided to open the bakery; Chikage, his loyal servant; Ono, the demonically charming gay patissier and his energetic apprentice, Kanda, a former boxer.

As I dove into this series trying to quench my thirst for sexy yaoi, I ran into a big surprise. The yaoi-elements are pretty light in this story, it’s actually built on atmosphere and character interaction and development. In other words, it’s not your typical superficial and corny yaoi/shounen-ai series; I’d say shounen-ai is only an element of the story and definitely not its focus. The quiet, soothing atmosphere combined with the delicious looking cakes give Antique Bakery a very distinctive charm, somewhat reminiscent of Bartender. The interaction between the four lead characters is interesting and funny at times. The character development is a feast to watch as it slowly unfolds and as it reveals pieces of their pasts. This was a really good and coherent anime with a great sense of pacing.

Koi Kaze 7-13, 4 stars. A salaryman who just got dumped meets a highschool girl. He feels comforted and takes a liking to her. Later they learn that they are brother and sister – they had no idea. From that point, an uneasy story begins to unfold about one of the most powerful taboos of human society.

This anime was very interesting. I saw the other half in april and by then the story was told from the perspective of the older brother; from episode 7 or 8 onwards it’s told from the sister’s viewpoint. This series excelled in creating an atmosphere of uneasiness and guilt and I thought the complex matter of incest was handled intelligently and without unnecessairy and corny cliches (if Angel Sanctuary and Boku wa Imouto ni Koi wo Suru ring a bell T_T). The perspective switch was refreshing as the story finally built up to a fitting conclusion. What I liked was – although they were condemned by society – that they weren’t judged by the anime itself. I always appreciate it when a series leaves room for a viewer to form his/her own judgment. In short, if you want to see a thoughtful series about incest, look no further.

Mononoke, 1-2 eps, 3½ stars. In a feudal Japan, evil spirits known as mononoke plague the people. A travelling medicine seller vanquishes the mononoke using the power of his Exorcism Sword. However, in order to draw his sword he must first understand the Form, Truth and Reason of the mononoke.

The thing about this anime that stands out most so far is without a doubt the animation. The style is unique, the use of colours comes across as psychedelic and the incredibly detailed background and patterns are a true feast for the eyes. Though I can fully understand people hating it for it’s bizarre way of presentation, it’s not something that you easily forget and I really like daring and memorable character designs and animation. I can’t say a lot yet about the story itself so I’ll leave that job for next month ^_^.

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, 4 stars. Teenager Mirai unwillingly accompanies her little brother Yuuki to a robot exhibition, when an earthquake hits Tokyo with a magnitude of 8.0 on the scale of Richter. Together with an adult woman called Mari, they try to get home. It’s a dangerous journey full of collapsing buildings, aftershocks and a disturbing shortage of medical care.

First of all, it’s quite fascinating to see a massive city like Tokyo collapse all down to the core, and seeing a city that large in such a state of chaos is indeed quite unsettling. It was a true visual spectacle. The leads are nothing special; just normal people and normal children, when, pushed to their limits, clearly show their weaknesses and unexpected strengths. This shows that it can go either way: some people only care for themselves in life-or-death situations, others show remarkable signs of altruïsm. Some people give up on their lives easily, others are blessed with incredible tenacity and will to survive. Also, this show was realistic in the sense that it was based on an awful lot of research. Finally, I haven’t cried myself senseless like this since Clannad After Story, so prepare for a truly hearth-wrenching ending. In short, it was a deeply impressing story though it was definitely the ending that made me feel this way about this show, as I thought the pace was somewhat slow and inconsistent in the middle of the anime.

Bartender, 4 stars. Eden Hall is a small bar in the middle of Tokyo, a quiet shelter where one can forget about daily worries drinking spirits made by one of the best bartenders in the city.

The first thing I want to say about this show is that it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s slow paced, episodic and it has a slice-of-life feel to it. The biggest asset of the anime is its soothing and calm atmosphere (even more so than Antique Bakery) and the way the bar functions as a little oasis of rest and peace in the middle of the big city. The stories of the clients and their interactions with the bartender are pleasant to watch and some viewers may even grow interested in all the different varieties of beverages that are presented along the way. It’s a unique show unlike other anime and a memorable watch.

Eden of the East, 4 stars. In the year 2010, on a day called ‘Careless Monday', ten missiles hit the cities of Japan; miraculously, there are no casualties and the event quickly fades from public memory. Some time later, Saki Morimi decides to visit Washington, DC on her graduation trip to America, but that day begins a series of bizarre events. After getting into trouble with the police, she's rescued by a young man who is completely naked save for a gun in one hand and an even stranger item in the other - a phone credited with 8 billion electronic yen and a female voice on the other end called Juiz who will fulfill his every wish. Having no recollection of his past and calling himself ‘Akira Takizawa', the young man accompanies Saki back to Japan in the hopes of discovering who he is. Akira's enigma quickly proves fascinating and Saki decides to help him rather than reunite with her family; but what neither realizes is that Akira is embroiled in a dark game of life and death linked to the Careless Monday missiles. Has Saki just made a terrible mistake, and can Akira unravel his own mystery before they both lose everything? (Synopsis taken from Anime Planet).

This show had one of the most brilliant first episodes I have ever seen and it immediately got me hooked and pumped up for the rest of the show. It continued on a slightly lower (though still enjoyable and interesting) level and then concluded in a great finale. Although there were some genuine wtf-moments, most of the show was clear enough to be enjoyable while leaving other aspects in the dark to create moments of suspense. What I liked most about this show was Akira’s carefree, flexible and easygoing nature. He’s just one of those instantly lovable and highly memorable characters that are capable of making or breaking a show. Secondly, I completely adored the opening theme of the series ( for the OP ^_^) and I still listen to it several times a day even a month after finishing the series. It’s highly addicting. I also found the premise of the show really intriguing, although the execution could have been clearer and more focused. Had it continued on the greatness of the first episode, it would have gotten 5 stars without a doubt. Still, it was a higly enjoyable experience of a cleverly constructed story with an original premise and a great lead character.

Nodame Cantabile, 4½ stars. The brilliant and studious Chiaki and the clumsy, eccentric but genius piano player Noda Megumi (‘Nodame’) are both conservatory students and polar opposites. As they grow closer, they develop their personalities, musical abilities and their careers along the way.

While the tone and humor of this show are reminiscent of Ouran High School Host Club, its focus is slightly more mature and concentrated on a different topic – namely, on classical music. I myself am a sucker for classical music and therefore worship this show unconditionally. Not only does it feature a wide variety of classical genres in a spectacular way (Rachmaninov’s 2nd piano concerto ftw!!!), it also shows us the slow and at times painful and frustrating (as I can completely identify and testify ^_^) progression of those musical pieces as our leads struggle to get it right. What I liked most of this show is how realistic their progress was; if you make the choice to be a music player you’ll have to sacrifice everything else and put your whole soul into it or you won’t make it. Pieces won’t instantly improve and sound better, but will require a lot of perseverance and determination and an ability to cope with disappointments. By now you might think that this is only a show for classical music nerds, but this show is actually ridiculously popular even among people who would have otherwise never picked up classical music. It’s a straight recommendation for almost everyone, so stop watching all the crap you’re viewing at the moment and indulge yourself in something really good ^_^!

Nodame Cantabile: Paris, 4 stars. Chiaki and Nodame have gone to Paris and try to keep progressing with their careers and their relationship.

While I really liked this sequel, it wasn’t as good as the first season. While it was really nice to finally see Chiaki and Nodame in the context of a relationship, it wasn’t half as satisfying as it should have been. While Chiaki’s career goes smooth and easy as usual, it’s interesting to see Nodame’s struggles with the technical part of music and the sacrifices it asks of her. Also, the music is great, as always.

Nodame Cantabile: Finale, 4 stars. It’s a continuation of Chiaki and Nodame’s time in Paris. I loved the piano concerto in g major of Ravel to bits. Seriously. On a more focused note, it continues to give us what we love: good music and nice character interaction and development. The conclusion is somewhat weird and unexpected, but still an ok ending and a good conclusion to the Nodame Cantabile saga ^_^.

Eve no Jikan, 3½ stars. Androids live side by side with humans - as their slaves. In one small café, the borders between androids and humans become indistinguishable and pose some serious questions to the lead characters about the nature of the relationship between humans and machines.

As a quiet, fairly short show, this anime is a fresh and interesting watch with some intriguing themes, original viewpoints and problems. My only complaint is its shortness – I’m positive that a more stretched out story would have made it achieve more depth – and a satisfying ending.

Kimi ni Todoke, ep 1-6, 3½ stars. The quiet, shy girl Sadako bears an uncanny resemblance to Sadako from The Ring and is feared by most of her peers. However, once the popular guy Kazehara starts to pay some attention to her, she finally manages to slowly crack open her shell with the help of her new friends.

This show seems to be cute fluff. While I’m not particularly crazy about shoujo, it looks like something entertaining and sweet to kill time with – while not being amazingly interesting or deep. I’ve only seen one fifth of this show so you’ll hear my conclusion next month, probably ;-)!

Bokura ga Ita, 3½ stars. Yano Motoharu and Takahashi Nana are two highschoolers who fall in love. Problems from Yano’s past and his somewhat contradictory character keep haunting their relationship – can they manage to stay together or are they headed for disaster?

While it features some of the most ugly and inconsistent animation you’ll ever be unfortunate to lay your eyes upon (if even animation-ignorant-me notices, it must be really bad xD), its story is actually a lot more mature than most anime romances can even dream of – that is, it’s not sexless and isn’t afraid to touch themes like death. While the leads clearly care much about eachother, there are also a lot of recurring problems that make their relationship incredibly painful to look at, at times – it’s not all roses and sunshine here. Though it does have its flaws (like being a bit too long and repetitive), if you want to see a fairly good romance anime that goes just a bit further in the romance aspect and the background of the lead characters than the average superficial omg-kyaa-and-nothing-happens-except-for-one-kiss-in-the-last-episode shoujo, this might just be the right series for you.

Shadow Star Narutaru, 1-2 eps, 3½ stars. While visiting her grandparents on a remote island, Shiina Tamai, our young protagonist, inadvertently finds a strange star shaped creature, which she names Hoshimaru. This creature, while seemingly harmless and unusual, holds many secrets. As Shiina and her new friend Akira soon find out, their creatures are much more than they seem to be...and against their will, they are thrown into a dangerous and hostile situation of trying to save the world from others who would use their dragonets to enslave it (synopsis taken from Anime Planet).

While I haven’t seen enough of this series yet to make a clear judgment, the first episode seems to be somewhat misleadingly cheerful compared to the second, where a more serious theme is touched. This was one of those series I really wanted to finish this month, but couldn’t thanks to the whims of my great friend the internet – anyway, more about this next month.

Samurai Deeper Kyo, ep 4-12, 3 stars. Samurai Deeper Kyo is a story of two men in one body - the humble, polite Mibu Kyoshiro and the legendary samurai Onime-no-Kyo, who has a price on his head. Consequently, Mibu Kyoshiro is captured for having an uncanny resemblance to the samurai. As the story of SDK progresses, we learn more about the two unique souls that inhabit the same body (synopsis taken from Anime Planet).

While not in any way above average, it’s not really boring. It’s cliched and simple, but not unpleasant to watch, so I guess I can say this one graduated from ‘boring’ to ‘tolerable’. The fights are somewhat ok. It’s still trying to come across as more badass than it actually is, but it’s acceptable.

Futari Ecchi, 2½ stars. Makoto and Yura Onada are a newly married couple. Luckily for them, even though their marriage was arranged, they are deeply in love. However, even though they are both 25, neither of them have any ‘intimate’ experience, and consequently, they are equally as unsure and clumsy. With a little advice from Yura's friends and sister, this newly-wed couple will eventually get it right and explore the hardships of marriage, and the wonderful world of sex, even in daring places and awkward situations (synopsis taken from Anime Planet).

While this anime is not in any way able to qualify itself as being good, at least it has the balls to show us some female-considerate sex education for ignorants without becoming a hentai show. I kinda liked that point. The show was somewhat cute.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, 4½ stars. Kamina and Simon break out of their underground village Jeeha, all the way up to the surface. Their battles against their enemies the beastmen (and their mechas called ganmen) slowly evolve from saving their own and their friends lives to saving the entire human race – will their lust for freedom hold out against such terrible odds?

Wow, what an intense ride this was. Whacky, fast paced and ridiculously over-the-top, it managed to tell an engaging narrative with characters to die for and at the same time pushed the borders of shounen to its limits. While at first I found myself annoyed with the show, it was not before long that I loved everything about it – the characters (Viral ftw :D), the original weapons and way of fighting, the epic moments, the moralistic and ethical messages and the mindblowing conclusion. As Omurqi didn’t think it was that special, this is probably a hit-or-miss show like Code Geass, but for me it was bulls-eye :-D!

Hi no Tori, 4 stars. In a few independent arcs in completely different times and settings, we are shown the struggle of life and how it keeps repeating itself. It was a really interesting and above all creative show that, although it didn’t leave much room for personal interpretation, presented some intriguing narratives (I absolutely loved the last arc about immortality and the one about the woman in a time loop). This is probably not a show for everyone, as it has a very distinctive style of storytelling that’s different from the way of most anime.

Close the last door, 3 stars. Nagai is depressed after his co-worker and love interest Saitou marries. He ends up getting into a relationship with another man, but then it turns out Saitou’s wife ran off with one of her colleages. What’s Nagai to do?

Juicy, nonsensical yaoi. Hurray! While it’s not too explicit, it provides the fangirl within me with satisfaction with some really nice kisses and groping.

Seikimatsu darling, 1½ stars. Basically two guys falling in love both wanting to be the seme. While this premise has the promise of potential hilarity, it turns out to be an utterly disappointing and boring title without any of the man-on-man action we want to see when we watch yaoi. Don’t. Watch.

Ikoku Irokoi Romantan, 3 stars. Ranmaru, the son of a yakuza boss, has to marry his childhood friend Kaoru in an attempt to unite their families. When he’s being kicked out of his room on the wedding night, he meets the handsome western man Al, who’s eager to take care of him.

Again, this is probably yaoi at its best, if having a deep and coherent story isn’t a must for you when you watch your yaoi. It has one of the coolest and hottest ukes that has ever graced my screen and it’s a nice change if you’re tired of all the little doe-eyed virgins. It’s also pretty explicit, shortly, a must watch for all yaoi fans.

Zetsuai, 2 stars. An angsty lovestory about two teenagers – an athlete and a singer. I never liked coercion a lot in yaoi, but the whole story is pretty bad. Without any kind of conclusion it just ends, without anything significant happening. Not really recommendable.

Zetsuai Bronze, 1½ stars. While Zetsuai wasn’t really atrocious, its sequel is. I’ve never seen such butt-ugly characters. Their faces and bodies are certainly not something you want to see when you’re craving for yaoi-bishies. The story is abominable, I can’t mention a single good thing that happened in it, so stay away!

Great Teacher Onizuka, 16-18, 3½ stars. Previous motorcycle gang leader, the perverted 22-year old Onizuka, becomes a high-school teacher of a class of delinquent kids. With a perspective and way of working different from any other teacher, he tries to win their trust and help them coping with life’s problems.

As this is also one of those series I had been meaning to finish this month, I can’t really say a lot about the 3 episode I saw. It’s still the same as before – Onizuka being perverted, idiotic and at times incredibly cool. I do find the storyline repetitive and predictable, but it’s still a nice watch. Let’s hope I can finish it in July.

True Remembrance, Visual Novel, 4 stars. The Visual Novel tells of a future where many people suffer from a pandemic depression known as the dolor. In an unnamed city, specialized doctors known as Mnemonicides treat patients who suffer from the dolor. The protagonist, a young Mnemonicide named Blackiris, is given the task of curing a young girl named La of the dolor (synopsis taken from wikipedia).

Tricked by Omurqi into finally reading a Visual Novel, I was somewhat reluctant at first but I’m glad I read it :-D. Being a fundamentally different medium than anime or manga, it accordingly was a very different experience from what normally happens. That point aside, the story was great: slow paced, atmospheric (the music was nice although repetitive) with nice character interactions, perspective shifts and some thought-provoking ethical questions (while at the same time it isn’t difficult to understand or confusing). I loved this visual novel and will probably continue following Omurqi’s lead concerning this medium :-P.

So, that’s basically all the material I watched this month *applauds if you made it all the way down* - aside maybe from keeping up with most of the airing series of 2010 and some of the usual stuff; Bleach, Naruto, One Piece and Fairy Tail. Fairy Tail has some awesome soundtracks by the way. Google ‘Greatest Battle Music of All Times Fairy Tail’ on Youtube and listen to ‘Fairy Tail Main Theme’, ‘Dragonslayer’, ‘the Theme of Multiflora’ and ‘Fists Blazing’ if you’re interested. It’s beyond awesome, especially for suckers for Irish sounding music like me :-P.

I was actually planning to do a ‘first impressions on the Spring Season of 2010’, but since most of the to-be 12 or 13 episodes series are almost ending, I’ll probably write a ‘Spring Season of 2010 – 12/13 episodes shows’ instead xD. Lol. So much for my determination. Anyway, at any rate I’m planning to wrap up all of the series that were left hanging – hopefully without internet breaking down to pieces this time ;-)!


  1. Holy shit, 50 episodes in a day? I don't think I've ever even passed the 20 mark. At most I probably hit 15 back in my early days of fandom when I ploughed through Chobits. Everytime the episode ended I had to start up a new one because I wanted to hear the opening again~

    Just a quick warning: The first Eden of the East movie came out recently but it's a little bit dissapointing. There's a second movie coming soon that finishes up the whole plot though so hopefully that'll be better

  2. Hooray for another mention of Fairy Tail's soundtrack. I know I can't get enough of the Celtic rock and with the stuff that the composer serves up, it's probably the most underrated soundtrack this year.

    Glad to see a positive note for Koi Kaze. That show is exemplary in that it's how a good incest story should be told. Stuff like Kiss x Sis cheapens the whole experience.

  3. Holy shit. Large amount of anime is large. And fifty episodes in one day? Oh man, I'm really tempted to break that record now.
    Anyway, I'm glad you liked Higashi no Eden, it's good that this wicked shoujo-suspense show is getting some attention. But yeah... the first movie was a bit of a fail. Hopefully the second one will be better.
    It's a pity Kimi ni Todoke hasn't as much an impact on you that it did on me. I loved the great characters and cute and fluffy humour, and you're right, it's not deep. It's just pure fluff, with one of the most innocent high school students you'll ever see. The show really carries itself with it's side characters though.
    Other than that, I'm glad you like Gurren Lagann as much as you did, and I can't believe you watched Futari Ecchi (the manga of that is just terrible).
    Oh, and if you're starting to like visual novels, maybe I should team up with Omurqi to get you to read Umineko no Naku Koro ni.

  4. Wow, you follow a lot of series at once and you consume a lot of anime.

    Anyways, I watched the J-drama for Antique Bakery and loved it. Maybe I should pick up the anime as well.