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romeo_moon [userpic]

WTF?? Where's the blog?

December 17th, 2009 (09:54 am)

Yeah, I know, we're coming on 2010, and still nothing for 2009. What happened? Well, the gaming world sucked me in again, and the anime world spat me out. I've especially gotten back into City of Heroes. My friend has a Super Group on there called House of the Wayward Soul, so I've been running around getting prestige so he can buy lots of cool stuff for the group. I've also gotten to a higher level (22 at the moment), which is high enough to start really experiencing some of the fun stuff like inventions and more interesting villain groups. There's also the Christmas event and free server transfers for characters right now. I've also discovered the tailor, which you can visit and add a new costume, for a fee, every ten levels, or so. I still mostly solo, but every now and then I'll team. I'm really still a bit anti-social there.

As for anime, well...I have been going to various conventions, mostly to see how they run differently to the one I staff called Geek.Kon.
I was added as Staff Artist last year, and I'd like to keep doing it. I've gotten a lot better at handling Photoshop, even though I still only use Elements. I've also thought about going into costuming, but there you have major expense, too. And that's the root of the problem when it comes to anime for me. The expense is just too much. I just can't afford to pay $30 for 3 episodes. The vendor from Anime Palace told me the whole hobby is going down. People see that they can get DVD's of quality American (or in the cases of Huntik and Winx Club, Italian) cartoons like Wolverine and the X-Men and Avatar: The Last Airbender for peanuts, and wonder why they have to pay so much for so little when it comes to anime. In their minds, they're getting ripped off. It is a bargain from the viewpoint of the Japanese producers, since anime DVD's can start at $80 and up in Japan. Additionally, a lot of videos from streaming sites are being removed due to copyright infringement, or the sites are being shut down all together. This it the case with the sites I had found. Some, like Crunchyroll, have gone legit with some pay-to-use features. You can't blame them, anime companies are feeling the crunch, too. It's just that I've gone through my Naruto phase back in 2004-2006, and I have fond memories of it. but I'm ready to move on now. I don't really care if they're offering it for free because I don't watch it anymore.

The thing is, even with a subscription fee and buying booster packs for costumes and powers, CoH, as City of Heroes is called, is far more cheaper than all the anime I used to buy. Even upgrading my computer, or buying a new one, is worth the price. I can't really use an anime DVD for much else, other than passively watching the show. I guess I could get back into writing fanfiction [I had written a couple of DBZ yaoi fics featuring Trunks and Android 17 ;) ], or doing fanart. But there just isn't the draw for me anymore. The shorter series and movies seem the best bet for now. I can watch them quickly and then get back to the stuff I really want to do. Kill things on my computer!

Anyway, you'll notice I've removed the "Eye Candy" videos and the photo gallery. The videos went, since Youtube seems to like removing creativity from the site every so often. Especially if this creativity involves other peoples' music and video edited together. I've come across a Team Fortress 2 video that was removed, but through diplomacy and climbing the ladder of bureaucracy, the creator has managed to get it back online there. The photo gallery is gone because it simply added too much of clutter, making it hard to notice the table of contents kind of thing I have. I think I called it "Recent Viewings" or some such, but it's supposed to make it easier for people to search postings based on the anime they feature without having to go through the calender. I took all the pictures off of various websites, and most can be still be found in the original reviews. In a fit of trying to organize my Photobucket account, I went and moved a bunch of pictures into folders based on series, even though I was warned that I'd be breaking links by doing so. I've gone through on this version of Anime Impressions and removed the broken links.

So the blog still isn't quite dead yet, at least not in my mind. I just haven't seen anything worth posting about except for maybe Higurashi. But then, I like to write reviews as soon as it's fresh in my mind. I've already got another series I seem to only be able to find on Veoh called Kaiba. We watched it in Anime Club last semester, but I stopped going to club on account of differences with the current president. I'm not a student anymore, so I don't really have any say in rather we have a serious viewing or a riff fest (as he seems to think everything that comes out of his mouth is a jewel). Yet something else that has made it more difficult for me to enjoy the hobby.

romeo_moon [userpic]

Hiatus Over!

November 23rd, 2008 (03:45 pm)

Hiatus Over!

I'm back! Geek.kon 2008 was another success with attendance at 1,144. In an unexpected twist we had as many furries attend as Sci-Fi fans! I wonder if this means the furry fandom is making a come back? I've got a new webcomic up called Miss Popular. Well, it's actually something I did back in high school. It started out as a doodle in my psychology class notebook and wound up being 110 pages long. So far I've only got the first eight pages up, and I'm working on digitally lettering the next fifteen pages.

Since I've been doing more digital artwork, I'm more wary of downloading anime considering how much space it takes up. I've also given up on gaming for now, as it eats up time I'd rather spend doing art and watching anime. I have to say, though, from my brief time as a gamer, I've come to prefer PC gaming over console. I might start up again, especially in light of Gaia Online getting it's free MMO up and running, although it runs a bit choppy on my computer. I've restarted my Netflix account and have found a lot anime streaming sites. Netflix is especially great since it offers many titles I can't seem to find anywhere, or have forgotten about. You know, all those late 80's early 90's OVA's that focus on the apocalypse and bloody ninja battles. To wit, I've found an abundant supply of man-ame!

Like I posted before, I'm going to try to focus on older stuff, probably from before 2000. However, I may occasionally post about newer series, too, just to keep things from getting boring. And now without further ado:


romeo_moon [userpic]

Robot Carnival

November 23rd, 2008 (03:35 pm)
current location: Madison, WI

WARNING:
This page contains SPOILERS!

There's a sharp contrast between the anime of today and the anime of yesterday, due mostly to the shift in influence in the industry. Gone are the days where the word “animation” was synonymous with the word “Disney.” With the arrival of the Internet, anime came to dominate the scene. Once relegated to the darkened corners of a few video stores, it's fans considered subversive perverts, anime came into it's own a long time ago.

One of the movies that helped push anime into the limelight was Robot Carnival (1987).

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For years it sat beside the likes of Akira and Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer on those darkened video store shelves, until, according to the Wikipedia article, the Sci-Fi channel picked it up for late night viewings.

Robot Carnival is an anthology of short films, most of which have a distinct European/American feel to them,and, of course, the main theme of robots. The opening sequence features a young boy trying to warn his desert village of the approach of the massive Robot Carnival machine. Once a center of entertainment, it has become a rusted behemoth meandering its way through the desert, crushing everything in its path.

“Franken's Gears” is about a scientist who creates a robot ala Frankenstein, only to be killed by it in a freak accident.

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“Deprived” has a male robot seeking out a young girl he has promised to protect, and who has been kidnapped by an evil cyborg. This was my favorite as it inspired memories of Fist of the North Star and a lot of other action oriented anime that has a lone wolf seeking out revenge. It's also the short that feels most like a traditional 80's anime, from the violence and action driven plot to the androgynous villain who looks like he walked out of an 80's Heavy Metal Hair Band.

“Presence” is one of the longer short films and is very reminiscent of “Ghost in the Shell” and “Magnetic Rose,” with absolutely gorgeous artwork.

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It concerns an inventor who creates a “more feminine” companion for himself after his feminist wife upstages him in the career department. Terrified that his new toy has developed a mind of her own, he smashes her and leaves her remains to molder for twenty years before finally facing his fears and returning to her. Another twenty years after that, the mechanical girl appears before the aged inventor and they both walk away into oblivion, leaving the wife baffled as to her husband's whereabouts.

“Star Light Angel” reveals that not everything is as it appears. A teenage girl enjoys a robot themed amusement park with her friend, only to find out her companion is dating her ex. A performing robot notices the girl's distress and comes to her aid when a virtual reality ride, picking up on the girl's emotional turmoil, turns into a nightmare. However the girl is shocked and dismayed to find, rather than the romantic idea of a lovestruck automaton, a human knight beneath the armor. After he finally manages to rescue her, she comes around, and the two meet outside the park after closing time, presumably to pursue a relationship.

“Cloud” feels more like a Rene Laloux art house Sci-Fi cartoon rather than anime. It's about a boy robot wandering the Earth while the clouds behind him take on different shapes. Eventually he becomes a real by via an angel which appears in the cloud behind him.

Up next is “A Tale of Two Robots: Chapter 3: Foreign Invasion,” about a mad genius, dubbed in English with what sounds like a German accent ala Albert Einstein. The small Japanese village he's invading isn't going to take it sitting down...well some of them are. Sitting in a giant, coal-steam powered robot of their own!

“Nightmare” is probably the short that is the least like anime. It's more “A Night on Bald Mountain” transposed over Tokyo with robots in place of demons. The story begins with a view of everyday life in Tokyo featuring rotoscoped pedestrians. As night falls, we see a massive pendulum swinging back and forth between the towering skyscrapers. We then learn that it is attached to a massive robot looming over the city. It summons to its aid a smaller robot dressed in a red hat and cloak.

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Known as Red Neck, his job is to race through the city on his hovering platform, bringing various machines to life which then combine to form some truly demonic looking robotic creatures. These minions then dance and gyrate before their master's delight.. In the middle of all this, a drunken salary man, Chicken Man, awakens in an alley only to find the city overrun with nightmarish electronic monsters. After being discovered by Red Neck, Chicken Man desperately trys to escape the machines on his own little Vespa. Eventually the machines are defeated and our cowardly drunkard looks out over a nearly demolished city as the sun rises to shine on the skyscrapers, pierced like pin cushions by fallen debris.

The animation for Nightmare is nearly as smooth as that of Disney's feature films, and many of the gestures and movements made by the characters are very reminiscent of Western animation. The twirl of Red Neck's cloak is much like Snow White's as she runs through the forest. But then perhaps he's more like the Headless Horseman from Disney's Sleepy Hollow. Chicken Man himself looks a lot like Ichabod Crane, and his actions are cowardly enough to put Ichabod's frightened flight from the Headless Horseman to shame.

“Robot Carnival” is worth the effort. Your best bet is to look it up online, as it has never been released on Region 1 DVD, which is surprising since it was, and still is, regarded as an important piece in the history of Japanese animation. You may also be able to scavenge it from the piles of VHS tapes found at various video rental places and used bookstores. Once again, it has found itself sitting beside Akira and Beautiful Dreamer on those darkened, dusty shelves.


romeo_moon [userpic]

Hiatus!

July 21st, 2008 (09:58 am)
anxious

current location: Madison, WI
current mood: anxious
current song: Little Busters

Notice of Haitus!
So where the hell have I been?
Here's an idea: Geek.Kon 2008
  (I'm on staff for PR, Vendors, and Sci-Fi Viewings), creating artwork to sell at my part of the Staff Artist table in  Artist Alley for Geek.Kon, I run the Geek.Kon Guild on Gaia Online, I've also got a full time job, I'm moving on August 1st from a 2 bedroom to an efficiency and thus have to get rid of a lot of stuff, switch over utilities, etc., I'm playing the MMO City of Heroes (my global chat handle is @Tira Blue if you'd like to friend me, though I'm not much of a talker while I'm playing) I'm also playing Diablo II: Lord of Destruction on Battlenet with a friend from work (we're gearing up for Diablo III)
Yeah...I've been kind of busy, and so I'm putting the Anime Impressions blog in all its incarnations on hiatus at least until I've finished moving in  August. At the latest, it should be started up again by October (as Geek.Kon 2008 will be held September 27 & 28). When it does start up again, I plan to go through my back log of short series, then move on to discussing older series, mostly from before 2000. I'd really like to sit down and watch some of the classics from the 70's and 80's like the original Cutey Honey, Galaxy Express 999, Captain Harlock, Goshogun, Godmars, and other giant robot series, Minky Momo, other older magical girl series, and Science Fiction Saiyuki Starzinger. A lot of these older series are fairly long in length, so the blog may still be a bit spotty when it some to being updated. However, it will be updated! Even if it takes weeks to do so.
You've probably noticed by now that the world, or at least American pop-culture, is steadily becoming indifferent to anime. Companies are cutting back on staff and series (ADV), and others have had their American branches go under completely (Geneon). I, myself, have gotten a bit bored with at least the new stuff, to the point where I didn't even bother to attend the special July meeting for the UW Anime Club featuring old vs new stuff. Thus I intend to return to the good old days that I remember from middle and high school. Once I have the time.

romeo_moon [userpic]

Busou Renkin (Episodes 1-26)

March 20th, 2008 (10:12 pm)
amused

current mood: Has a good end!

WARNING:
May Contain Spoilers

Busou Renkin (Episodes 1-26)

From Watsuki Nobuhiro, creator of Rurouni Kenshin, we have Busou Renkin. I first noticed this series while browsing through the download website I now use regularly, rather than p2p. The description was intriguing; the plot sounded like a cross between Full Metal Alchemist and Bleach. The title in fact is translated to be “Arms Alchemy” or “Armored Alchemist.”

Plot:

As with Bleach, the protagonist, Kazuki Muto, starts out as a normal high school boy who likes hanging out with his friends and getting into mischief. That is, until he dreams about running into a girl at an old, haunted factory near the school. In the dream he dies, trying to protect her. He meets her later, and learns that she is Tokiko Tsumura, an Alchemic Warrior fighting against homunculi using her Busou Renkin (Arms Alchemy). He also learns that he really did die, and was brought back to life after Tokiko replaced his heart with kakugane, a disc that produces Busou Renkin, a weapon that takes on a form in accordance to the user's fighting spirit. After he and his sister are attacked by an animal-type homunculus disguised as a teacher,

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Kazuki follows Tokiko fighting various animal- and plant-type homunculi until they discover Koshaku Chouno, a genius student, who has become deathly ill and is now seeking to become a human type homunculus. He eventually gets his wish and becomes Papillon, who's not just a superbeing, but a hentai too!

Kazuki manages to defeat Papillon in battle, forcing the homunculus to return to his laboratory where he meets up with his ancestor, Dr. Butterfly,

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who, along with the League of eXtrordinary Elects, is trying to resurrect the most powerful Alchemic Warrior of all time, a traitorous monster known as Victor. We also learn of the Hayasaka twins, who volunteered to be henchmen for the LXE in order to become homunculi. Kazuki has allies of his own, especially in the form of Captain Bravo,

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who goes on to train Kazuki in Alchemic Arms combat.

Now the real meat of the series begins as Victor awakens over Kazuki's school, draining the students of their energy and bringing the boy's friends and sister close to death. Forcing himself to ignore the plight of his friends, Kazuki rushes at Victor, who promptly defeats him. Our hero isn't down yet, though. It turns out the kakugane Kazuki uses to form his Busou Renkin is far from ordinary. In the search to create the Philosopher's Stone, the Alchemic Warriors created what's known as Black Kakugane, an unstable form of the kakugane that has transformed Victor into a monster. Kazuki has the third of the three Black Kakugane in his chest, and thus he has the ability to “victorize” himself, Photobucket

making him as powerful as Victor, but also just as insane and deadly to his friends.

After Victor flees, and everything seems to return to normal, including Kazuki, a trip to the beach with his friends turns tragic, as he becomes hunted by the Alchemic Warriors he once trusted. Of course they can't let another “Victor” go running around, draining the world of energy. We learn that soon Kazuki will permanently become victorized. However after Bravo fails to complete his mission and then turns on the other Alchemic Warriors, General Shosei Sakaguchi steps in and calls a halt to the execution order. That is, provided Kazuki, Tokiko, and new “love rival” Gouta can find information at the Newton Apple Girls Academy about the Black Kakugane.

Our love triangle then heads to the academy and finds Victor's daughter Victoria, now a homunculus, and wife Alexandria, now a room of cloned brains, have developed a White Kakugane from the second of the three Black Kakugane in order to reverse the victorization process. During the final fight with Victor, the White Kakugane fails to fully restore Victor to human form after he's reached an unprecedented third stage of victorization. Kazuki is forced to blast both himself and Victor to the Moon, where the battle continues. Tokiko and everyone else stews over their loss until our heroine decides to go take out Papillon once and for all, something Kazuki didn't have time to do. After fighting various cloned homunculi, Tokiko reaches Papillon, who is sitting in front of a large bomb-like container. She stabs Papillon and the container smashes open to reveal that he has full filled his own promise to Kazuki and made a White Kakugane. Shosei gets the bright idea to modify his Renkin, a giant robot called Busta Baron, into a rocket ship. Our team blasts off to recover Kazuki, who winds up bringing Victor back to Earth with him. Kazuki returns to normal after placing the white Kakugane in his chest to nullify the Black. Shosei produces another White Kakugane he's made from Papillon's instructions, and with two of these inside him, Victor finally returns to normal. The Alchemic Warriors disable their Renkin and begin to search for a way to turn the homunculi back into humans. Papillon continues his life as neither a homunculus who craves human flesh nor a weakling human, but as a superhero type being. He even gets a fast food toy modeled after him.

As mentioned in the plot synopsis, the first half of the series is quite slow. Filled with small battles that just barely hold the attention of the viewer, annoying minor characters, and comedy that's awkward to say the least, I'd almost recommend skipping over the first six, nine, even twelve episodes. Except for the fact that these episodes are exposition for the rest of the series, so we're pretty much stuck with them. They aren't entirely wasted. We get to see exactly how a homunculus is made, as Tokiko gets infected and nearly becomes one herself.

We also see some character building, although for the most part everyone stays firmly stuck in Shounen cliches for most of the series. Tokiko is the cool headed warrior just like Clare from Claymore, Kazuki is the brash young hero like Ichigo in Bleach. Gouta is more a goofy Naruto type character, eager to please Tokiko and envious of Kazuki's power. And Chouno (Papillon) is the Vegeta/Picollo character, first evil, then aiding his enemy only so he can fight Kazuki later in a duel, and after admitting final defeat, becomes a not-so-reluctant hero figure. Another strange similarity the viewer will notice is that Victor looks eerily like Brolly of DBZ fame.

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Adding a bit more to the characters is the love triangle between Tokiko, Kazuki, and Gouta. There are a few moments when I didn't know who Tokiko would end up with, if either of them, which really lent some tension to the story. It also seems in the world of anime that Japan is populated by girls who are overly protective, or even sexually attracted to, their brothers. Kazuki has one such sister, who, along with his school friends,

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is determined to be annoying as hell.

The whole semi-sexual attraction between siblings is also uncomfortably portrayed between the Hayasaka twins, who enjoy playing the “marriage game” while their “mother” looks on.

And speaking of “uncomfortable” and “annoying,” it's time I discussed Papillon (or Chouno, as Kazuki calls him). Papillon is in fact the true star of the show. He's a wild card in that you don't really know what he's going to do, or how he will affect the other characters and the plot. His “hentai” qualities are rather embarrassing, as one minute he's prancing around in a leotard:

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and the next he's in a thong:

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from which he pulls out his famous butterfly mask.

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Everything about him makes you cringe, including his goofy since of humor, and the truly bizarre second ending theme, in which he features.

He grows on you, though, like an ugly ingrown hair you just have to scratch, and the last half of the series picks up enough to keep you interested. The Renkin take on several interesting forms including a submarine and a series of caves. The opening theme is really kick ass, as I would expect from a Shonen Jump series. Even the comedy improves, what with General Shosei running around laughing and beating up insubordinate subordinates. The manga is only ten tonkoban long, and the anime pretty much concludes at episode 26. This is surprising for a Shonen Jump series, which usually run to at least 100 episodes. All in all, it may not be Rurouni Kenshin, but it's worth a short look.

romeo_moon [userpic]

Darker Than Black (Episodes 1-25)

March 12th, 2008 (07:30 pm)
bouncy

current mood: A fantastic series!

WARNING:

May Contain Spoilers

 

I've been wanting to see Darker Than Black since we previewed the first episode in the Spring '06 semester of the UW Anime Club. I was also a bit nervous about it. Other members were fairly unimpressed with the first few episodes of the series, and weren't afraid to voice their opinion on the club forum. Featuring music by Yoko Kanno and a band of misfits fighting for, and then against, an evil syndicate, this series was able to capture the feel of camaraderie found in other series like Cowboy Bebop.

PLOT:

Li is an awkward Chinese foreign exchange college student who has just moved to Shinjuku, Japan. The world around him is a troubled place. Mysterious Gates have opened, one in South America called Heaven's Gate, and one in Shinjuku called Hell's Gate. These strange areas are physically unstable, filled with
the manifestations of the ghosts of the dead, and strange flora.
 

They also seem to be connected with beings known as Contractors. These seemingly emotionless humans each have a special ability such as altering gravity, creating massive sound waves, and pyrokenesis. They also go through an obsessive ritual after using their powers, called a “Remuneration.” A Remuneration can be anything from smoking, to drinking, to arranging objects into a pattern, eating hard boiled eggs, or even dog tagging the pages of a book. Often, the Contractors are used as tools of assassination and war, as in the case where the Heaven's Gate disappeared, taking with it a large chunk of South America. Before then, various nations had been using Contractors to fight for control over it.
Along with the Contractors are beings known as Dolls, who use a specific element like water or electricity to send out “observer apparitions” for reconnaissance. These Dolls usually maintain a blank, frequently bored facial expression.

A third type of super being, known as a Moratorium, is a chaotic figure, unable to control their powers and with little chance of becoming a Contractor. The fourth type is a Regressor, a Contractor who loses their powers.

Li isn't who he says he is. He is Hei, a Contractor known as BK201, the designation given to his star, which, along with the stars of thousands of other Contractors, lights up the night sky forming faux constellations. The “real” starry night sky has not been seen since the Gates first appeared. Hei is teamed up with Yin a water oriented Doll, Mao a Contractor in a cat's body with the ability to possess other animals, and Huang a human working for the world wide Syndicate. Together they work to fish out information on other Contractors, the UN research group PANDORA, and the yakuza for the Syndicate. Hei also has the private mission of finding his lost sister, Bai.

His private interests lead him to become involved with the group, Evening Primrose, lead by Amber, a former operative of both the Syndicate and the British inelegance agency, MI6. Amongst those interested in Hei are the MI6 team headed by November 11 and Foreign Affairs investigator Misaki Kirihara.

It eventually comes to light that the Syndicate is behind PANDORA, and may have found a way to eliminate Contractors forever.

It isn't easy to duplicate success, as Bebop's director, Shinichiro Watanabe, would find out, when he returned along with most of the Bebop crew to direct the rather disappointing Samurai Champloo. For me, Darker Than Black's success is found in the short, two-parter oriented storytelling, like that found in Black Lagoon, and the story's ability to mimic the main character's own personality. Like Hei, himself, sometimes the story is comical and uplifting, and sometimes it's action oriented and/or depressing.

The main conflict is an internal one centering around Hei's emotional identity, the battle between his Contractor identity and the humanity blossoming inside him. 

Who is his real self? The cold hearted Contractor, out for his own interests, or the timid human who is only just now learning to rely on his team, and even enemies like Amber, for emotional support.

In a way, he is much like a popular DC Comics' hero we're all familiar with. Is there even a Bruce Wayne, or does only the Batman exist? This is a question asked by Batman fans and philosophers alike. In fact, most people I've met who've seen Darker Than Black , say it's pretty much a Japanese anime version of Marvel's X-Men, sans the tights. There are a lot of similarities, such as several characters possessing similar powers. We see in the series that there are at least three Contractors with gravity altering abilities, two which can manipulate electricity, and two which have the power of possession. The closest any of the contractors comes to being like Professor X is probably Mao, though he's still a bit amoral in his willingness to betray his partners to save his own skin. Amber the leader of the Contractor resistance force, aka Evening Primrose, is closest to Magneto, although we find she has a bit more of a conscience than he does. Many powers found in X-Men and other Western comics are also found here, such as the ability to mentally control fire, teleportation, freezing ability, and levitation.

One of the few complaints I have is that not enough is explained about the Contractors. We know their Remunerations are involved with their past human lives. For example, one Contractor forces herself to chew cigarettes and spit them out. She says it doesn't have to be cigarettes and that any object will do as long as she places it in her mouth, then spits it back out. However, she goes on to tell a story about how, while she was human, her infant daughter choked to death on a cigarette. She obviously feels guilty about it, and states that ever since she became a Contractor, her Remuneration has reflected the cause of her daughter's death. I'm assuming a Contractor has some form of guilt or fear they wish to rid themselves of, and that once the Contract is made with some unseen force, the Remuneration reflects a punishment. I guess the big question is, who is behind the creation of the Gates and the Contractors? Another question I have is what is creating the strange phenomena inside the Gate? I kind of wish they had explored some of the weirdness of the Gates a little more, but then again, learning too much about the Gates would have ruined the mystery behind them.

It should be noted that episode 26 is being planned as an OVA to be released in 2008. It should give a tighter conclusion to the series, and hopefully answer some of these questions. Until then, I suggest you check out this very interesting series.

romeo_moon [userpic]

Demonbane (Episodes 1-12)

March 12th, 2008 (07:27 pm)
amused

current mood: This was an okay series.

WARNING:
May Contain Spoilers


When I first sat down and began watching Demonbane, I was expecting a good ol' giant robot anime. You can imagine my disappointment when what I got was a lame parody of anime genres. It took a lot, I mean A LOT, to get me to keep watching this! I'm glad I did, since I hate to leave things unfinished.

There's at least a few things to like about Demonbane. The art work is very nice and Gonzo does a good job with the CGI for the giant robots. The opening theme song “Man, God, Machine” by Yuuichi Ikuzawa has the great driving beat and techno vibe of many giant robot anime series. Oh yeah....There's also a lot of references to the Cthulu Mythos. A lot of references. The names of major and minor characters, places, and attacks are pretty much all derived from various stories by H.P. Lovecraft and other Cthulu writers. If you can, try checking out Shinsen Fansubs digisub which contains approximately five minutes of notes at the end of each episode on lots of stuff like Cthulu, Lovecraft, and odd science facts that fit into the Mythos.

Plot:

Kurou Daijuuji is a lovable screw-up and semi-out-of-work detective, who usually frequents the local orphanage to steal a meal. His life, like that of so many accidental heroes in anime, is changed when a girl falls from the sky (actually a rooftop) and lands in his face, butt first.

It just so happens that this girl, Al Azif, is actually the fabled grimoire Necronomicon. Aquiring her just so happens to be the mission he was hired to carry out by the Hadou Fininacial Group. It also just so happens that the comical Doctor West is attacking the city with a giant robot.

Quickly, Al does a henshin sequence with Kurou. It's just like many magical girl change sequences, what with all the pseudo nudity and sparkles. Only it's both the girl and this guy naked together and changing. Kurou grows long white hair and one of his eyes turns red. Al shrinks to a chibi form of herself.

She then goes on to summon the great Deus Machina (God Machine) Demonbane using an elaborate magical girl like dance, and regaining her original non-chibi form.

She is co-pilot while Kurou takes over the main controls. This is all just in the first episode, mind you.
In the second episode, we meet Master Therion, who has his own grimoire known as Lady Etheldreda, a.k.a. Pnakotic Manuscripts.

Therion has quite a few tricks up his sleeve and a gang of loyal....well, maybe not so loyal followers called the Black Lodge.

In the mean time, Dr. West invents a female robot called Elsa. This, along with Al, Princess Ruri Hadou (Kurou's current employer), and her maids lead to some pretty fun harem hijinks at an onsen in episode five.

The reason why I'm glad I stuck with this, is the pick-up in the momentum of the story beginning with episode five. Master Therion announces he, himself, will try to take over the world by performing a magic spell. It had been thought that Al Azif and Demonbane were needed for this spell, but Therion assures the members of Anticross, the elite sorcerers of the lodge, that his powers are sufficient. They promptly turn on him, then manage to take out Al later. Kurou wonders around fighting Anticross and mourning the loss of Al, until a battle sends him over the edge into another plain of existence where he's reunited with her. The final two episodes include plenty of plot twists to keep you entertained. The ending is a bit confusing, but just think of it as two alternate universes overlapping.

Based on a PS2 game, which in turn was based on a PC eroge (erotic game), Demonbane TV still retains some toned down, yet still risky imagery. I mentioned the henshin scene where both the male and female lead appear in “barbie doll” nudity together. Tiberious,a member of Anitcross, takes Princess Ruri hostage, then, from a distance, appears to molest her with his tentacles. Kurou jumps in, cutting her loose and chiding Tiberious that tentacle play is out of style. There isn't any detail other than Ruri's cries for help and Tiberious's obscene comment about her not breaking on him. However, my experience with the hentai Madam M, where the same “don't break on me” expression is used, leads me to believe the animators tried to sneak something in. Also, in the eleventh episode, a female character is restrained with tentacles, a couple of which seem to be creeping up through her nether regions. All the female characters are large breasted, with the exception of Al and Ennea. Particularly busty is Naia (Nyarlathotep, the evil trickster god of the Cthulu Mythos). Despite the pseudo-hentai feel, I still enjoyed the anime's battle scenes.

I really liked Al Azif. Her character is reminiscent of other spunky, smart ass heroines like Shana of Shakugan no Shana. The point where she died was where I really started to empathize with her and Kurou. I found Ruri to be fairly annoying, as she really was just a princess in distress most of the time. 

I would like to check out the OVA, which came bundled with the first PS2 game, and features a journalist investigating the arrival of the mysterious Demonbane mecha.

Demonbane has a lot to offer, and it's not always coherent. There's a bit too much comedy in the first few episodes, which will turn off people looking for an action series. However, if you're a Cthulu fan looking to pick up on the many references, or a mecha fan looking for some decent giant robot warfare, you'll find it here. Just sit tight and you'll eventually find something to make it worth while. If not, then at least it's only twelve episodes of suck.

romeo_moon [userpic]

Black Blood Brothers (Episodes 1-12)

March 12th, 2008 (07:24 pm)
busy

current mood: Just transferring these posts.

WARNING:
May Contain Spoilers

Korean  theme songs, fairly good characters, and an interesting plot; sometimes following cliches can lead to a fairly decent series. Plus it's only twelve episodes long. And it doesn't fritter them away, like Rozen Maiden.

PLOT:

The main character, Jirou, uses a silver sword to hunt down evil vampires, known as Kowloon Children.
He travels with his younger brother Kotaro, to the Special Zone, an area where humans and vampires live in peaceful co-existance.The humans call themselves Red Bloods and the non-Kowloon vampires are called Black Bloods. When they reach their destination, they are greeted by a human, Mimiko Katsuragi:
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She is what is known (in a throw-back to the ol' Getbackers days) as a Compromiser, a human who invites vampires to live in the Special Zone and helps the ones without bloodlines find a place to live. Since Jirou is an Old Blood (meaning he's over a hundred years old) and both Kotaro and Jirou are of unknown bloodines, they wind up relying heavily on Mimiko for shelter and connections. These "connections" are the three major vampire sects of the Special Zone: those from the Continent (i.e. mainland Asia), Europe, and the Darkness (a coalition of everyone else). All is not well here, as no one wants to deal with a vampire killer like Jirou. Plus, the Children of Kowloon are after something hidden inside the Special Zone, and their attack is lead by a former friend of Jirou's, Casa:
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Jirou is like a toned down Alucard and Vash  in that he provides both comic relief and some good action sequences.

Vash:

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Alucard
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Jirou
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I just finished this series, and I'm actually quite impressed with the tight storytelling and fairly dynamic characters.

T
he main character is powerful, but not as powerful as some of the other characters. He's also got a few inconvenient weaknesses to water and sunlight, unlike some of the other vampire characters. He's also destined to die, eventually. Alice Eve, the woman who originally turned him into a vampire, was turned to dust and reincarnated into a baby, whom Jirou adopted and named Kotaro. Alice's bloodline possesses the special ability to reabsorb those they have turned into vampires. Thus, Jirou is doomed, and he knows it.
There's still a few cliches, such as Jirou kind of being a rip-off of Alucard and Vash, and the bratty younger brother, the vampires that eat other vampires, the problem of co-existing with your enemies, etc.
Another problem I have is with the bratty little kid character, Kotaro, who is Jirou's brother:

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There is some relief in that Jirou doesn't really take crap from his little brother, and will usually bash him into walls if he gets too annoying.
But where else will you see an anime that features annoying little kids getting the snot beat out 'em? Well....Okay, there's probably a few of those anime out there, too....
In the end all the questions I had seemed to be answered, but I'm hoping for a second season. There's still a major villain to deal with, a few minor henchmen still lurking around, and a secret that is devulged to Jirou about what is being hidden in the legendary Yard 11 of the Special Zone.
Also, the end theme song, "Shingiru" is performed in Korean by the South Korean band, Loveholic. It's very catchy!
Overall, it really is worth a quick look.

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romeo_moon [userpic]

Tenjho Tenge (Episodes 1-24)

March 12th, 2008 (07:16 pm)
determined

current mood: I'm gonna post this, NOW!

WARNING:
May Contain Spoilers

In the fan made movie/parody "This Is Otakudom," a redubbed Gendou (from Evangelion) accuses American executives in the anime industry of taking well thought out, plot driven anime and turning it "into Pokemon." Tenjho Tenge suffers the same fate of many anime from as far back as Kimba the White Lion to as recently as Naruto and  Bleach. Only it didn't need American CEO's to dumb it down. The Japanese did that themselves.
Tenjho Tenge is based on a "seinen" manga, meant to be enjoyed by men in their late twenties to forties. It features quite a few bondage/rape (or near rape) scenes and plenty of violent, bloody fights. The manga is still going, and the anime is faithful up until the eighth volume.

PLOT:

It takes place in a high school devoted to keeping the martial arts in the classroom....literally. This school is controlled by a violent student council known as the Enforcers, who themselves are opposed by the Juuken Club, lead by Maya Natsume. When Nagi Souichiro and Bob Makihara show up and start causing trouble, Maya allows them to join her club. Maya's younger sister, Aya, immediately falls for Nagi and announces her intentions to be his wife. This is a problem because another member of the club, Masataka Takayanagi, has fallen for Aya. Things get complicated when Nagi falls for Maya during his training lessons. Then Masataka's older brother Mitsoumi, the leader of the deadly Enforcers, shows up and asks Maya to return to his side. A large chunk of the plot surrounds the back story of Maya and Aya's older brother, Shin Natsume, a strong warrior who is ultimately consumed by his own uncontrollable power and murdered by the woman who loved him. Aya begins to show signs of this power known as the Dragon Eye, which allows her to see into the past and future. Will she succumb to it as well?

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Impression:

This could have been a really great show, or at least more entertaining, if only they had edited it a little better. I don't mind the rape being edited out, but for a fighting anime, it could have been much more violent. The fanservice, which is present in both the manga and anime, is distracting, even if it is toned down compared to other 2000 anime series like Ikki Tousen.

Tenjho Tenge and other anime filled with female warriors and fan service are "Man-ame" taken to it's logical extreme. Since the mid-90's, anime geared towards men, had evolved (or perhaps devolved) into anime based off of fighting games. Fatal Fury, Tekken, and  Battle Arena Toshinden all featured masterful fighters with rippling muscles and busty femme fatals, and practically no plot at all. Anime made after 2000, attempted to reintroduce plot lines while retaining the violence and boobs. The problem with the Tenge anime is that the back gorund story isn't concise enough. We're left wondering for several episodes when the plot will return to the present, dire, situation. Why are our heroes sitting around listening to stories instead of going out and fighting Mitsoumi?

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Although the back story does provide a lot of needed info about Shin and the formation of the Juuken club, the five or six episodes it takes to tell it, could have been edited down to two or, at most, three. We learn a lot of useless crap like relationships that don't go anywhere and characters that don't really do anything. What we don't learn until the final episode, is the extent of the Takayanagi family's power. We know that a couple of lesser families do their dirty work, including whoring out one of their women to be Mitsoumi's girlfriend. However it is later revealed that twelve families support the Takayanagi family. Half of these fight using traditional weapons and half fight using energy (ki). Any other information about the significance of these familial relations is relegated to the manga, and perhaps the two episode OVA, which I have yet to see. At least some of that time spent on the sub plot could have been used to further the actual story about defeating Mitsoumi. What we got was a lot of chitter chatter, a bunch of distracting fan service, and a few fights.

One of the few things that kept me watching this was Maya. I like her character a lot, as she is able to control her energy and change into a chibi form of herself.
Maya (chibi-form):

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Maya (Full-Form):

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She's also the strongest fighter, next to Mitsoumi. Plus she refuses his charms:

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Well....kind of.....But then it's not like we actually see them hook up. This is about as edgy as the anime gets. It's one of those shows that, unlike the manga, doesn't deliver on what it promises. Where the original source material gives us sex scenes bordering on hentai and violence to churn the stomach, the anime  throws jiggling juggernauts at us and unrealistic blood that would make ketchup seem like a better idea, if this were live action. Ladies and gentlemen this is how you turn a tiger into a pussycat.

romeo_moon [userpic]

BESERK! (Episodes 1-25)

March 12th, 2008 (07:13 pm)
accomplished

current mood: I'm a happy kitty!

WARNING:
May Contain Spoilers

Ahhhhh......The anime of the late 80's and mid-90's.....Before the entry of the waif-like form, when male anime characters went shirtless, sporting basketball size deltoids and six-pack abs. When Cthulhu roamed free through the darkness, and women knew when to shout the hell up and kill something. It wasn't just anime....it was "Man-ame!" You couldn't watch stuff like this without growing an extra testicle!

There's no better Man-ame than "Berserk." I'd heard about it for years, and the people in the UW Anime Club have always described the bizarre, hallucination inducing ending to me. And so, when I first started watching it, I was looking for some weirdness. The first episode full filled what I was looking for, but pretty much everything up until the 24th episode is your standard Life As War story.

Plot:

Like many Fantasy stories, it seems to take place in a version of Medieval Europe. The main character is Guts (Gatsu?), a swordsman for hire. He catches the eye of Griffith, perhaps the creepiest bishi ("bishonen" = "pretty boy"), you'll ever see in an anime:

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A mercenary, as well, Griffith has big plans for himself, and he's willing to sacrifice anyone, even his loyal followers, the Band of the Hawk. The others don't realize this, of course. With the exception of Casca, the female commander, they think he walks on water. She is the only one who sees Griffith as a human being, and a generally good-natured one at that. Howoever, even she can't see the darkness that resides within him.


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Yep, there's another one of my favorite anime character types. The heroic warrior female. Casca is strong physically, except for during her menstruation cycle, and doesn't take crap from her male subordinates. I actually didn't like her at first. In fact....I still kind of don't like her character. Although she doesn't actually hang off the arm of Griffith, as Princess Charlotte does:

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Casca is still fixed on fulfilling only Griffith's dream, rather than working for her own. Griffith himself makes it clear that those who work to help him achieve his goal are merely his underlings, his servants. He does not see them as friends, or equals.

Compared to the astonishing Griffith, Guts just seems to be an "Average Joe" type character.

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Although he is incredibly strong and muscle bound by Average Joe standards, he has a hell of a time trying to fight off demons. In an anime like DBZ, all he'd have to do is power up after getting his butt kicked and blast the thing into oblivion. However, when up against an inhuman foe like the Behelit, Guts usually winds up winning through a combination of luck and cunning. He's an easy character to identify with. He's strong enough to survive in battle against normal, human foes, but not powerful enough to take out a demon in one fell swoop. While we rarely see Grifftith injured, Guts bares the brunt of many attacks and keeps coming back for more. Plus, he's hot! He's got beef-cake written all over him. And yes, he does eventually hook up with Casca, after a history of animosity:

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It should also be mentioned that, as with Claymore, the anime for Berserk only covers the first thirteen volumes of the thirty-something volume manga currently being published. There is also no end in sight for the manga, which some think will run to about one hundred plus volumes (Berserk Encyclopedia, FAQ: "When will BERSERK end?"). The anime concludes around "episode" 70 of the manga, although there was supposed to be a 26th episode that was cut due to budget constraints.

A word of warning to those who are a bit squeamish. If you catch the "Eye Candy (Berserk)" section on the main page of this site, the AMV I found on Youtube will give you a discomforting look at the final two episodes of the anime. It ends on a rape scene (which does happen in the manga, only more graphic). The anime pretty much keeps a majority of the plot in tact from the manga, although certain characters and plot elements are missing and the violence is toned down. We are not treated to seeing Guts sold into sexual slavery and anally raped as a child (as also happens in the manga). But still, be prepared for some shocking stuff that borderlines on hentai.

Despite the anime's abrupt and horrifying ending, I plan on reading the manga. Many new characters are introduced, the plot is expanded upon three fold, and Casca is catatonic. There's more female warriors to be had. I'm looking forward to them finding their own dreams. And to seeing Guts again.

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