Friday, July 2, 2010

The good, the average and the atrocious, June 2010

Wow. June passed by in a flash. I spent large amounts of my time at home either working on my super annoying paper (which I finally finished and got a passing grade for after repeated sessions of feedback, hallelujah) or watching anime. On the average, I watched 8.8 anime episodes a day, went out a lot with friends, in short, it was like a pleasant prelude to the freedom of summer holidays. As for my actual watching activities, I saw some terrible series that make you question the whole medium and a few shows that instantly hooked me – the kind of show that reminds you of the reason why anime is, in fact, awesome ^_^.

Angel Sanctuary, 1½ stars. Setsuno Muda is a high school boy with a cruel fate, trapped in a forbidden love for his blood sister and inhabited by the spirit of the Organic Angel Alexiel. As the final battle between Heaven and Hell approaches, and forces gather against him, he must soon make decisions that will inevitably alter his future for better or worse. But for poor young Setsuno, his anguish and torment might be more overwhelming than the blood on his hands, as conflicts are settled and lives are changed forever... (AP)

I think the word ‘atrocious’ was created in order to create a compact, accurate description that would perfectly capture the depth, character development, story line and overall quality of Angel Sanctuary, though I’ll admit I’ve heard better stories about the manga. Man. If you’re thinking about watching this, I’d highly suggest doing something more enjoyable like contemplating suicide or scraping out your own eye with a tea spoon. It’s bound to be more fun than 3 episodes of this.

Descendants of Darkness, 2 stars. Tsuzuki Asato is a shinigami: a guardian of death. Acting as an investigator in Juuouchou, the bureau in charge of ensuring that each soul passes through the cycle of life naturally, his job often involves dealing with those who would disrupt this cycle. His life after death is about to change, however, as he is assigned a new partner, Kurosaki Hisoka, for a case in Nagasaki - a case seeming to involve some sort of vampire. But the two shinigami soon find that something deeper lies behind this blood-sucking menace... (AP)

While this show has some ingredients I’m notoriously weak against, like bishounen-ai, vampires, shinigami and superpowers, it still somehow managed to completely fail amusing me. Yes, that’s true. It bored me in the same way Samurai Deeper Kyo bores me, it’s bland and generic with a lot of irrelevance and plot holes and doesn’t manage to make its viewers care if the leads live or die. The promised shounen-ai was nothing more than a hint. Descendants of Darkness was one of the most disappointing shows of the month (I was already expecting Angel Sanctuary to be kind of bad xD).

Darker than black: Kuro no Keiyakusha, 4 stars. A giant wall looms over Tokyo, shielding the city from a dangerous otherworld called the 'Hell's Gate'. Within the city, things are no less terrifying because Contractors, psychopathic killers with phenomenal powers, have started to appear. These killers are compelled to pay a price every time they use their powers, often in the form of a meaningless or painful task. As their deadly habits rack up a gruesome death toll, Kirihara Misaki and her team from the Foreign Affairs Public Security struggle to solve the cases and bring the Contractors under control. Their task is further confounded by the interference of a masked individual they title Messier Code BK201, a man with abilities that allow him to fight and defeat the Contractors. Who is this BK201? How can the Contractors be stopped permanently? And what does the appearance of the Hell's Gate mean for the people of Tokyo? (AP)

Now this was one hell of a watch. Although similar stories have been done before, the approach this anime took felt new and original. The Darker-than-black universe is rich and incredibly convincing, as I found myself completely entangled in the interplay between the police force and the contractors working for the Syndicate. Hei’s alteration between his real personality and his kind alter ego Li Shunsheng really reminded me of Code Geass and Death Note, but this feature was used in a way that felt more realistic and mature than in the other two series. The mystery surrounding Hei’s past and nature also accounted for a part of my enjoyment, and of course the fact that he was incredibly strong. The series built up to a climax and ended in a satisfying conclusion. My only possible complaint with the show is that there was too much episodicness and incoherence in the middle: a few arcs felt unnessecairy and I didn’t like some of the series’ side kicks either.

Darker than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini, 3½ stars. The story from season one picks up in Russia, some time after the events in Japan. While this season was undoubtedly more coherent and less episodic than its predecessor, it doesn’t have this important thing the first season did have: an awesome, kick-ass protagonist. Maybe it’s childish of me to think of this as a flaw, but I unquestionably enjoyed the first season more. I liked the cat-and-mouse games, the protagonist’s double identity and the mystery concerning the Gates. Season two feels like something different, unrelated and not half as interesting and relevant as Kuro no Keiyakusha. Yes, I know it sounds like a personal grudge, which is why I still gave it 3½ stars since it is actually good when it’s seen as a stand-alone or a side story.

Black Lagoon, 4 stars. Okajima Rokuro is a small-time salary man who is carrying documents for his company, when the ship he's traveling on is attacked by pirates. Kidnapped, he discovers to his dismay that his employers' main concern is to ensure the documents don't get into the wrong hands, even if it means sending the carrier to the bottom of the sea. Now, with his former life ruined and his kidnappers seeming comparatively friendly, "Rock" decides to join their merry band of mercenaries, and sets out with a new career to the shadier corners of the South China Sea (AP).

An action flick it might be, but it’s one of the most interesting and addictive ones I’ve come across in a long time. Between all the (at times pretty unrealistic) fighting scenes are remarkable moments of depth: Rock trying adapt himself to his new life, his ideals clashing with Levi’s and his struggle to be accepted by her as a valuable member of Black Lagoon. I personally believe this psychological touch is what makes Black Lagoon double worth the watch ^_^. And of course I loved Rock's moment of fame somewhere in ep 2 or 3-ish :-D

Black Lagoon: the Second Barrage, 3½ stars. The second season picks up right after the ending of the first season. The first two arcs (ep 1-6) are notably of lesser quality than the arcs in the first season, both in terms of the storyline and character-wise. The second half of The Second Barrage, however, goes a long way characterizing Levi not only as a killing machine, but also as a human being. It also does an excellent job on depicting Rocks dillemma as he is now forced to think about where he’s standing in his thinking, actions and morals: Japan or Roanapura? Altogether, I loved the second half of the series but I thought the first half was somewhat weak. I’m really looking forward to the OvA ^_^.

Paradise Kiss, 4 stars. Yukari is a typical high school student on the fast track to attending a university, but her boring life leaves much to be desired; that is, until a motley crew of fashion design students ask her to model their new clothing line: Paradise Kiss! Now, Yukari must choose if she will reject the life her mother has laid out for her, and start making choices on her own for the first time. While taking her first steps into adulthood, Yukari also begins to realize that with freedom comes responsibility; a life in the fashion industry isn't an easy one, especially for someone unsure of her own intentions… (AP)

Remember when I once said that I hate the tendency of most anime to take a childish or at least middle school approach to relationships, even if it’s about adolescents? This is one of the first coming-of-age stories where adult relationships are executed in a realistic and mature fashion. It also clearly shows the message that life isn’t always roses and sunshine, but you can go a long way if you’re willing to work hard for it. This anime was one of my first josei-shows and I’m definitely not disappointed. Guess I’ll have to watch Nana if I want to see more of this awesomeness ^_^!

Shadow Star Narutaru, 3 stars, ep 4-6. 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 (AP).

The atmosphere of the anime is getting more and more uneasy. I’m a bit confused whether I like it or not. Some parts seem pretty boring and awkward (which is why I probably watched only 3 eps xD) but I do have the feeling that the story is building towards a reasonably interesting climax, so I haven’t given up on this story yet. In fact, some ethical aspects of the show could have had much more impact if I’d actually cared about the protagonists, which I didn’t T_T… I also found the animation style a bit of a turn-off, but maybe that’s just me. Well whatever…

Samurai Deeper Kyo, 2½ stars, ep 13-15. 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 (AP).

And just like that it graduated (or whatever its reverse equivalent in English is, I don’t know and I don’t care) back to 2½ stars. I realised that I actually care very little for the story and the protagonists, which is never a good thing really. The whole ride is starting to come across as one big shameless cliché, done many times before by anime that executed the premise in much more original and engaging ways. However, the story hasn’t ended yet so it just “might” get interesting enough for me to stop silently preferring to look at my brother’s screen while he watches Hitman Reborn xD. And yes, that sounded an awful lot like whishful thinking, I know T_T.

Mononoke, 3½ stars, ep 3-12. 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 (Sunagan).

As I already said last month, one defining features of the show is the animation. Its style is unique and unforgettable and it sets the tone for the atmosphere perfectly. The use of colours comes across as psychedelic and the incredibly detailed background and patterns are a true feast for the eyes. While the general lack of background music could be perceived as a weakness, it also gives Mononoke a weird kind of distinctiveness. The independent arcs are interesting in themselves, but I found myself viewing them more with a feeling of curiosity than any kind of emotional attachment. It’s like being told a disturbing mythological story from a richly illustrated picture book. It’s a fairly unique experience, so if you’re in for something different from the norm this is definitely worth a shot. Not to mention the medicine seller forms one hell of a potential yaoi pairing with his golden counterpart xD.

Maison en Petits Cubes, 3½ stars. As his town is flooded by water, an aged widower is forced to add additional levels onto his home in order to stay dry. But when he accidentally drops his favorite smoking pipe into the lower submerged levels of his home, his search for the pipe eventually makes him relive scenes from his eventful life (Wikipedia).

I know it’s regarded as a masterpiece by most of the more mature anime fans and I thoroughy enjoyed the atmosphere and the feelings of nostalgia created by the images and the piano music. Still, it neither gave me the emotional or intellectual attachment I need to truly love an anime. I guess there’s only so much a short can do in 10 minutes, and while I was touched, I was not deeply impressed. It was, however, without a doubt something special.

Atama Yama, 3 stars. An absurdistic short (10 minutes, I believe) about an avaricious old man. It was narrated (sung, even) as an old folk tale and actually pretty humoristic, in a sarcastic way.

Chobits, 3 stars, ep 1-19. Having failed to earn admission to a university, Hideki Motosuwa has moved to the big city, determined to study his hardest for next year's exams. However, an unusual distraction presents itself one unsuspecting day in the form of Chii, a robotic young girl that has been discarded in the trash. In a world where an increasing number of people turn to these 'persocons' for company, the bonds and limits of human relationships are tested as flesh manages to fall in love with the machine itself... (AP)

Yeah sure, it’s cute. It’s endearing to see little Chii learn how to function properly, largely by imitating Hideki’s behavior. Also, Hideki’s concern for and patience with his persocom is really sweet. The anime has a few interesting sidekicks that keep the story flowing. But that’s basically all there is to it until now. For the remaining part it’s repetitive, filled with stereotypes and a blushing adolescent being overly spastic and conscious about possibly erotically sensitive situations. But, but, I still have to watch the ending so maybe it’ll manage to give us the answers we want, together with a satisfying finale.

Excel Saga, 2½ stars, ep 9-26. Excel works for the idealistic evil organization Across. Together with her colleage Hyatt she tries to accomplish the tasks they are given by their Lord Ilpalazzo. While they’re at it, every anime genre out there is being mocked without any mercy (Sunagan).

While this anime definitely has its moments of genius, I guess the idioticness factor was too much for me to really enjoy it altogether. At the same time I know that other people adore this series for this very same random, crazy style. Still, I’ve become a silent fan of Pedro and his favourite line: ‘Nooooooooooo!’ Well, what can I say. Excel Saga is a classic and a must-have-seen xD.

Great Teacher Onizuka, 3½ stars, ep 19-43. 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 helps them coping with life’s problems (Sunagan)

While I don’t think GTO deserves the high ranking it currently has among anime fans, it’s without a doubt a fun series. Onizuka’s ways of dealing with his students’ problems (or making them deal with it xD) were incredibly refreshing. It’s hard not to root for him with that kind of personality anyway ;-). At the same time, the anime was overly formulaic and repetitive in the middle; that’s where I had to push myself to keep watching. I was going to give GTO 3 stars at first, but the entertaining last two arcs convinced me otherwise. It’s a nice watch altogether but don’t expect anything life-changing.

Kimi ni Todoke, 3½ stars, ep 7-25. 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 Kazehaya starts to pay some attention to her, she finally manages to slowly crack open her shell with the help of her new friends (Sunagan)

Ok, I’ll admit that I was wrong about this show. Sure, innocent fluff it is, but one of the most cute and entertaining kinds of innocent fluff I’ve ever seen! The painfully slow development of the romance between Sawako and Kazehaya is far more endearing than annoying. The two female sidekicks make for priceless moments of hilarity and are part of what makes this show so much fun to watch. The story has an excellent sense of pacing and uses a bright, cheerful colour palette that could lighten any mood. It cheerfully seduces us in the same way as those sweet and incredibly tasty looking cakes lined up behind the glass in a high-quality bakery. Maybe I’m turning into a shoujo fan after all T_T *not happening*.

Kuroshitsuji, 3½ stars. Ciel Phantomhive, an intelligent 12-year old, is the owner of the internationally famous toy company Phantomhive. He seeks for revenge on the people who killed his parents and set their beautiful mansion on fire. In order to complete that goal, he’s made a deal with a demon who’ll be his loyal and unbeatable butler – in exchange for his soul (Sunagan).

Watched it in one day in order to be able to watch season 2 this summer x-D. While it may have been a bit too much for one day and just a tad too episodic for my taste, I still found the premise intriguing. The complicated relationship between Ciel and his butler was one of the strong points of the series. I also loved its climax and the ending, by all means expected but by no means less emotionally influential. There were parts in the middle that I couldn’t care less about and the story left some questions unanswered that I would’ve loved to see solved, but altogether it was an engaging watch. Season 2, here I come!

Mononoke Hime, 3½ stars. Ashitaka is infected with an incurable disease by a possessed boar. He is to die unless he can find a cure to rid the curse from his body. It seems that his only hope is to travel to the far east. When he arrives to get help from the deer god, he finds himself in the middle of a battle between the animal inhabitants of the forest and an iron mining town that is exploiting and killing the forest. Leading the forest animals in the battle is a human raised by wolves, Princess Mononoke. Ashitaka sees the good in both sides and tries to stem the flood of blood. This is met be animosity by both sides as they each see him as supporting the enemy. (Christopher Taguchi and Doug Short).

Stunning visuals and an intriguing story about the ways of coexistance between humans and animals, presented in epic fantasy format. Looks and smells like a good formula, and it is by all means a good movie. I only wished the lead characters could have been more developed, so that I would have been able to be more deeply impacted by this colourful narrative.

Saya no Uta, 3½ stars, halfway through the Visual Novel. Fuminori Sakisaka has a traffic accident which kills his parents and leaves him heavily injured. When he has a brain surgery to save his life, his perception of the world changes: everything he sees becomes blood and guts, people's looks and voices seem like monsters, and food that normally appeals to him tastes disgusting. As he contemplates suicide in the hospital, Fuminori meets a beautiful girl among the flesh-covered walls. She introduces herself as Saya, and is apparently looking for her father. Fuminori does not want to be separated from Saya, and asks her to live with him. She agrees (

The story is utterly disturbing and cruel. Still, it’s somewhat understandable from the perspective of the protagonist and I think that’s one of the strengths of this Visual Novel. You know that it’s wrong and insane, but you can still see where it’s coming from. The story also raises a lot of ethical and moralistic questions about the choices that are made along the way: you’ll wonder what you would do if you were in the same situation as the protagonist. At the same time, while I’m in favor of a somewhat more mature display of sexuality than featured in most anime, most of what’s featured here is unnessecairy fanservice, and lolicon on top of that, why thank you Omurqi T_T. I don’t like seeing what looks like a 10-year old girl getting impaled by a university student. In short, I find the story intriguing and I’m really curious how it will end even though there’s a lot of lolicon - I’m determined to see all of the three possible endings, so it might take me a while.

Hehe, so those were all the shows I watched in June (and of course a shitload of currently airing series, but that’s another matter). I’ll be on a holiday to France for the last 3 weeks of July so I kindly asked Omurqi to fill in the gaps ;-)! Luckily, I’ll be able to take a laptop with me so I’m currently downloading some shows I’ve been meaning to watch for some time – it seems like I won’t come back from my summer holiday severely anime-depleted this year.


  1. Hey, I did warn you about Saya no Uta ;P There might be a way to blur those scenes, I remember something like that being available.

    And about Narutaru I'll say just one thing: test tubes D: You'll know when it hits you.

  2. My $0.02:

    Check out Gokinjo Monogatari BEFORE Nana. Gokinjo WILL look like ass (it's from the '90's), but Mikako + Tsutsomu > George + Caroline. It's also one of the best shoujo I've come across, because it's ALSO not candy and fluff the whole way.

    ALSO: Kimi ni Todoke is more win than 3.5 Stars. :x

  3. I don't think you're alone in thinking that DtB2 wasn't nearly as good as its predecessor... An awesome protagonist makes all the difference!

    Aww, and it's hard not to like Kimi ni Todoke. Your bakery comparison describes the painful slowness of their relationship perfectly... T-T