Category Archives: Review

People are People; Clothes are Clothes!

After spending all last week marathoning Kill la Kill, I think it deserves a review.  And it will surely be an eyeful of one without any restraint.  Kill la Kill will probably be one of the most viewed shows of the year, so hopefully my points aren’t completely redundant.  Also, if you haven’t finished the series, you can avoid spoilers in…

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Admittedly, Kill la Kill’s story is a little difficult to analyze.  On the one hand, the superficial concept the show presents has not been explored (at least I’m not aware of another show where clothing is trying to take over the universe).  However, on the opposite hand, maybe (definitely) the underlying themes in the show have been done before.  That is not to say that this is a bad thing – simply that we should know that we are watching a plethora of other shows wearing different clothes.

From the superficial perspective, Kill la Kill is pretty unique.  Initially, the series seems pretty shallow with its copious amounts of fanservice and a plot that seemingly ends with Ryuko defeating Satsuki.  By episode 3, however, we should already know that this is not the ultimate goal of the show (hint: if you see the main character fight an antagonist this early in a series, they’re either a lackey or eventually an ally).  What follows is a – sometimes convoluted – path toward defeating the entity that provides every character with their powers.

After her fight with Satsuki, the climb to the top resumes as Ryuko continues to fight her way toward a “final” battle with Satsuki.  And it really is enjoyable.  The fights are put together very well and we begin to understand the characters’ drives a little more as the series continues.  The pacing is fast, though not so much that you get whiplash from watching it like in other anime like Kyousougiga and Dead Leaves.

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Eventually we get to the climax that I know that I was expecting – Satsuki’s betrayal of her mother and the full reveal of the goals of Nudist Beach.  But just because it’s predictable doesn’t mean that it isn’t great in its own right.  The majority of the first part of the series is spent humanizing the Elite Four and their relationship with Satsuki, so anything less than the betrayal that occurs would have been squandering potential.  The betrayal and the episodes surrounding it, in my opinion, are the best part of the series.

Afterwards, there are 7 episodes left to defeat the monster that is Ragyou which is incredibly unfortunate because we don’t really get much time to view her as anything more than a monster to be destroyed.  She seems to have no ambitions other than an insane notion that the Life Fibers should be able to consume the Earth.

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So we wrap things up in a very Gunbuster 2 (I’m looking at you Nono) kind of way.  Once again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – and definitely fitting in theme.  Also, I won’t ever forget the feeling I got from hearing “PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE!  CLOTHES ARE CLOTHES!” and then realizing how absolutely ridiculous and amazing what I just heard was.

The only thing Kill la Kill was missing  on its outer level was the “kill”ing.  As far as I know, nobody “dies when they are killed” in the show at all.  Ragyou commits suicide and Senketsu dies in flames while falling to the Earth.  Otherwise, no killing at all – who chose the name for the show?  Unless of course,  “キル” is really “cut”…yes…this makes a lot more sense.

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On the general theme level, Kill la Kill draws heavily from its predecessors.  Direct references, indirect references and borrowed themes abound.  Well, let’s get straight to the point.  Kill la Kill is basically a pseudo-magical girl rehashed Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann which is a rehashed Gunbuster.  It’s okay since they’re stealing from themselves, but the similarities are huge.

I’ve already mentioned the fact that the finale was very much like  Gunbuster 2 (which both series also involved ridding oneself of clothing), but the similarities to Gurren Lagann can’t be ignored.  Satsuki is basically Lordgenome, the Elite Four are Lordgenome’s Four Supreme Generals featuring Viral, Ryuko is Simon and Senketsu is Kamina, the Life Fibers are the Anti-Spirals that are laying dormant on the planet, and Ragyou is the big bad Anti-Spiral final boss.   Kill la Kill may have different tropes and plot points in places, but the basic story behind the series is simply a remake of Gurren Lagann.

Even though this is the case, it doesn’t really detract from the series too much because, honestly, you were watching this series because it’s fast, enjoyable, fun and it Aims for the Top, just like its predecessors.

In light of that, and the fact that I couldn’t put the series down, I think that it deserves the rating I’ve given it.

RATING:  9/10

While lacking in 100% unique content, Kill la Kill is 100% enjoyment, 100% fanservice, 100% action-packed and 100% worth your time.  Have I ever recommended a show with 400% the amazing?  I don’t think so.

 

(EDIT: brought to my attention by a friend that Senketsu is Kamina – Ryuko isn’t both Kamina and Simon – man I’m dumb)

A Love Story About Monogatari

Let me tell you a story.   Bakemonogatari has been and will probably always be my favorite anime of all time.  This is a story about how its second sequel lived up to and, in some cases, outperformed its predecessors.  This story is  filled with spoilers (and a lot of summary too) for an extremely pivotal point in the the Monogatari series – so readers who have not seen Monogatari Series Second Season (hereon MG2) have been warned.

The main thing that MG2 does unquestionably better than Bakemonogatari is character development.  That is not to say that Bakemonogatari is lacking in development, but the paradigm Bakemonogatari focused on was introducing a character, resolving their issues and using them in a supporting role for the remainder of the series (notably not as a supporting role for Senjougahara or Araragi for the series).  While MG2 takes a similar approach in that it deals with characters in mini-arcs for each character, it does a fantastic job diversifying all of the characters the series previously introduced.

Tsubasa Tiger

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Our first arc begins with Hanekawa becoming a vagrant because her house burns down and having some…we will say “interesting dialogue” with Senjougahara.  We also spend the first 4 episodes without Koyomi.  Admittedly, I was worried these first few episodes.  I didn’t want MG2 to have a fate anything like Nisemonogatari – owner of the weirdest scene in anything, ever:

28864-nisemonogatari-episode-8But I was fortunately pleasantly surprised that after the series got the “oddities” out of the way, it had quite a bit of depth and went beyond my expectations.

Hanekawa’s character improves significantly in this arc.  Frankly, she spends the majority of Bakemonogatari as a pretentious fool and I always had a hard time liking her as anything other than Black Hanekawa.

The flaw in Hanekawa’s character is in the fact that she allows herself to repress her negative emotions and for people to trample her.  It is quickly revealed that Kako, the tiger that burns down Hanekawa’s house is actually Hanekawa’s repressed jealousy.  She eventually realizes that her negative emotions must be dealt with and that she can’t simply isolate herself from negativity.

monogatari-5-34-hanekawa-tsubasaThis really allows Hanekawa to develop some strength because she finally learns to draw on negative emotions like jealousy and anger to be jealous and angry when it is warranted.  Her jealousy allows her to finally admit her love for Araragi (followed by his rejection, which humbles her) and her anger finally allows her to stand up to her family and ask for her own room.  All in all, this season greatly influences Hanekawa’s character and makes her far less commonplace.  And she gets spiffy new black and white hair to symbolize her acceptance of Black Hanekawa and Kako the Tiger!

Mayoi Jiangshi

Monogatari Second Season - 10 - Large 04While the second arc of MG2 is entitled “Mayoi Jiangshi,” the arc is much more about the deepening of Shinobu and Araragi’s relationship (one of the things Nisemonogatari did well) than it is about Hachikuji.

The entire arc is about time travel when Araragi, on a whim, wishes to return to the past to complete his summer work.  Shinobu grants this wish, but they end up going into the past to the day before Hachikuji dies (which it is revealed that Araragi had as a secondary intention).  They end up saving Hachikuji, but with extremely negative impacts for the timeline.

We find that Hachikuji positively impacted Araragi by being a ghost and that Shinobu was not so willing to accept Araragi without Hachikuji’s advice.  This resulted in the entire world becoming partial vampires – consumed by Shinobu who has nearly destroyed the world in this alternate universe.

For me, this was one of the best arcs in the MG2.  It reveals that Araragi’s relationship with Shinobu is incredibly important and that even the slightest change in events could have negatively impacted the outcome of things in the series.

Fortunately, we get a little fan-service of an adult Hachikuji who brings Araragi a message from Oshino about saving his timeline.  The menacing Shinobu of this alternate universe is defeated through Araragi’s presence and they return to their own timeline.

The great thing here is that Araragi proves, again, that he can handle these situations through his words and through his relationships.  While I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to keep the adult Hachikuji, it was worthwhile to see that our timeline’s Araragi had made the right choices in his relationship with Shinobu.  It is also fantastic to see that Shinobu and Araragi’s friendship is real and not fabricated by Araragi’s dominion over Shinobu.

Nadeko Medusa

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Without a doubt, the Nadeko arc contains the most development for a character, who was previously unlikable.  Throughout the arc we realize that Nadeko views herself as a victim and deludes herself into believing that she has become possessed by a snake apparition looking for its corpse.

What results is a little shocking.  Tsukihi cuts off Nadeko’s bangs (haircuts in this series and others often signify a personality change) and she finally snaps and lashes out in anger at her teacher and class because she can no longer hide her face and emotions.

I for one wasn’t sure if I expected a yandere snap out of Nadeko, but she definitely fully realized the trope.  Quickly, she becomes a god (not just an apparition) and uses her new Medusa hair to  stab Araragi and Shinobu repeatedly.  Senjougahara delays their death until graduation, but the character of Nadeko is forever changed.

This arc was incredibly surprising.  It begins with the Nadeko we all hate, the quiet and victimized pushover and we end up with one of the best yandere snaps I have seen.  It was extremely intelligent to push Nadeko’s character in this direction and one of the best decisions they made in this season.

Shinobu Time

monogatari-series-second-season-shinobu-oshino-kissshot-acerolaorion-heartunderblade-vampire-god-sleepingThe following Shinobu arc ends up dealing more with Hachikuji than it does with Shinobu.  We learn some extremely interesting things about Shinobu’s backstory – her time as a god and of her first minion, but all to explain that Hachikuji is being chased by a dark being because she was not performing as a proper apparition just as Shinobu was not performing as a proper apparition by pretending to be a god.

Hachikuji’s fault is that she no longer leads people astray as a ghost because she simply wants to spend time with Araragi.  It’s great to see that the relationship between Hachikuji and Araragi has developed to this point, but this happiness is quickly met with a bittersweet end to one of everyone’s favorite characters as she tells Araragi that she loves him and kisses him goodbye.

LGdasmCEven though we want to be happy that Hachikuji has been able to move on, this scene is incredibly depressing.  It is excellent, however, that the show realizes that Hachikuji is not a character that can exist indefinitely and gives her a fitting ending with Hachikuji “biting Araragi’s tongue”.

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Also, I guess we’re okay with the loli kiss here because she’s technically 20-something.

Hitagi End

koimo1The final arc of the series ends with my personal favorite, Senjougahara, and Kaiki (one of my new favorites) figuring out how to deceive Nadeko into not killing Senjougahara, Araragi and Shinobu.  This is another arc that lacks Koyomi but the change is perfectly fine when we find that Kaiki is just as charismatic and entertaining to follow.

We find out that Kaiki is not as bad as we were led to believe and also that, almost definitely, he and Senjougahara were once a thing.  As much as I don’t want to imagine Senjougahara with anyone other than Araragi, he is clearly not that bad of a guy.  Well, at least Ononoki thinks so.  Yay Peace Peace.

Despite the hard work that Senjougahara and Kaiki put forth, Kaiki is technically unable to “deceive” Nadeko resulting into her going full yandere crazy on him.

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Kaiki instead draws upon a part of his character we see develop throughout the final arc – his wisdom and experience.  He convinces Nadeko that she should pursue her ambitions rather than be pushed into others’ views of her and that she should also stop pretending to love Araragi to escape having to reject other people properly.

While Kaiki speaks to the snake apparition, it is clear who the real snake in the conversation is and that Kaiki is better at speaking honeyed words than any other character in the series.

Anime doesn’t do chaotic neutral characters very well usually, but they nailed it with Kaiki, who quickly became one of my favorite characters.

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We’re left with a huge cliffhanger that makes me want to pick up and read the light novels.  Kaiki is wounded (and probably dies) at the final scene and we find out that it is probably Ougi Oshino that is behind all of the oddities in the Monogatari series.  Looking back, we realize the connections that Ougi has had with all the characters in the series so far and the negative impact she has on each of those situations.  Now we wait to figure out who exactly Ougi is, if Kaiki lives and what will become of the rest of our characters in this intrigue.

While I don’t like the open-endedness here, it definitely makes me wanting more to the point that I absolutely cannot wait for the next season.  MG2 was definitely what I had hoped to see out of the Monogatari series again and rekindled my passion for the series.  Despite some early flaws and the Monogatari series’s love of fanservice, I can honestly say I enjoyed MG2 as much as Bakemonogatari.  I’m not sure how the characters will be developed in future installments, but we now have a clear enemy and a lot of characters who finally have more than just one face.

For me, this series gets another 10/10.

 

 

 

 

 

Robotics;Notes: Mechanically Flawed

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If one were to ask me if there was one show that I have been anticipating anxiously over the past few seasons, it would have definitely been Robotics;Notes.  Steins;Gate is one of the best series to have come out in, at least, the decade and Chaos;Head I still hold as a highly underrated series with a very unique plot.  This would have  been the reason why I expected a series that touted its mecha action and augmented reality (AR) devices to expand upon at least the basest of those concepts.  Instead, Robotics;Notes develops its characters to an adequate level while sidestepping a lot of what really drew me to the series and probably would have made the series more successful in the long run.

From here on out expect SPOILERS because I wouldn’t be able to do the show a just review, otherwise.

One thing that Robotics;Notes does mostly right is their characters.  While the depth of character development is nowhere near rivaling that of Steins;Gate, you do genuinely end up liking a lot of the characters and a ton of them are very vibrant designs.  That being said, Kai (our main character) is not a terribly interesting character, but the supporting cast more than makes up for his inadequacies.  That’s not to say that Kai is not a worthwhile character.  He has a decent sense of justice and is the man that all can depend on, but definitely carries a detached personality for a large part of the series.  His development in the latter episodes really hints that the show could have been a lot better than it was.  Kai, when he is serious, is a nonchalant badass, and even smooth, to an extent:

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What makes Kai not an ideal lead is that he really has little that makes him special (which is an overarching problem in the series).  Sure, he has a weird, not-very-well-explained ability that lets him experience time slowly, but it doesn’t really make him any better.

And while we’re on unique abilities that have little bearing on the series – what about Akiho’s ability to experience 5 minutes within what she feels like is a matter of seconds?  It was only used as a negative ailment the entire series, where a more creative writer could have found a way for her to utilize that ability to her advantage.  Later in the series, the ailment just kind of goes away – one of many incongruities in the show.  That’s not to say that Akiho is a bad character, in fact, she’s probably the best one because of her zeal.  We don’t get nearly as vibrant of characters as Akiho in anime any more.  She was absolutely committed to her goals, her dreams and her mecha fascination!  Without Akiho, the series would have been a dull band of misfits – her (and Nae’s) presence innervated the series.

robotics-notes-02-large-30Also worth mentioning is Kona, who was definitely the most interesting character in the series.  Even though she was a walking meme with an unforgettable laugh, she had a very lovable demeanor that isn’t achieved very often.  What was done well with her (especially in the Funimation subs) was that she really did embody the unpleasant side of otaku culture without necessarily deriding it.  I don’t think the brief ship-ing of her and Kai was a realistic romance, but it was still sweet to some extent.

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Aside from the characters, Robotics;Notes is a series of plotholes, asspull and build-up into an extremely boring finale.  Speaking of plotholes – what in the actual hell was up with the monopoles?

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WTF MONOPOLES FROM THE SKY

Seriously.  The monopoles just randomly drop from the sky and now can be used as a source of power?  Not only is this never adequately explained, it doesn’t make a bit of sense.  It’s as if the writers took something pseudo-scientific and made their own interpretation of it.  Steins;Gate does this too, but it’s postulating about time travel, which is an even more gray scientific area that allows for pseudo-science.  It’s sad that, even with these magical monopoles, that the Gunbuild is a piece of crap.  WITHOUT monopoles the corporation built much cooler mechs – we need some kind of scaling to make the mech battles more intense.

roboticsnotes-22-kimijima_kou-ai-hologram-ghost-antagonist-villain-error-erasing-static-artifactsIf there was a twist that I think never should have occurred it was that Kimijima Kou was actually a super bad guy who actually now is a viral infection 0|\|035!  Seriously.  The show would have been much better without villain-izing one of the few mysterious characters in the series.  All in all, his plans were irrelevant (as they were thwarted) and the plot twist did not make for a satisfying conclusion.

WhyNot-RoboticsNotes-22v2-82435AE0.mkv_snapshot_15.56_2013.03.22_07.12.46By all means, the conclusion’s final battle is the WORST mech battle I have ever seen.  Awful.  Just terrible.  And that really brings me to my main point about why Robotics;Notes failed to deliver.  We go into the series expecting the team to build a pretty sweet mech, but we get half-assed crap the entire time whereas the enemy has extremely superior (and kind of cool) robots.  The mech battles are terrible (literally the best mech action is in the intro where Gunvarrel is shown).  I guess the fact of the matter is that the show isn’t really a mech show, at all, but what is it?  Well…that’s kind of hard to answer.

On the surface, Robotics;Notes tries to be a series about mech and augmented reality, but the true reality is that it really fails at that.  What it accomplishes is establishing a slice of life setting with a plot that pretends to know what it is doing but often sidetracks and sticks its foot in its mouth.  It’s not the worst thing that’s come out in a while (hell, I wouldn’t have finished the series if it were) – but it is extremely disappointing to someone expecting a lot more than derping around for the majority of the episodes.  Despite its faults, the series is, indeed, entertaining for the most part, so it’s not worth entirely writing off, but understand that you are probably in line for disappointment.

RATING:  7/10  – Poorly executed plot and finale with fairly likable characters.

Let’s Talk About Blue Exorcist

Blue Exorcist


After having heard a lot of really (vaguely) good things about Blue Exorcist (let’s stop calling it “Ao no” just to make it sound cooler), I decided to give it a shot.  Going in, I expected a fairly shounen-typical show with common tropes associated with the genre – and I got…pretty much exactly what I expected.  Now before I go any further into this, I’ll preface my opinions with the fact that I have not read the manga and know that the story strays heavily from its source material in a similar manner as Fullmetal Alchemist.  So with that in mind, I’m forming my opinion based solely on my feelings about the anime.  Since I see no reason to continue dragging on like the first (more than) half of the series in question, let’s move onto the demon-slaying bullet points.

Plot:

One of the things I was hoping to see out of Blue Exorcist was a plot that contained more than the usual “big bad guy is bad, so we have to level up and get stronger by fighting little bad guys” story expected out of most shounen anime – and I guess I got something slightly different.  What I got was Rin unsheathing his sword every time a baddie came around and going god…err that’s probably not the right word…mode on them.

This is a gif…Click me and I go Super SaiRin!

While, yes, some of the other characters did fight and resolve issues to some end, at some point in the series we lose all sense of rivalry between them all and Rin just becomes the only character of the show with a bunch of cheerleaders and detractors.  If I wanted to watch that, I’d just turn on some football, complain that football was on, then promptly turn it off.  But at least football is team-oriented.  One of the main problems with Blue Exorcist is that you only get a brief look into the supporting characters before they are pushed away and left to live with their flat character designs and trope-infested personalities.  The problem with this is that the whole first half of the series is extremely concentrated on developing its character base very much to the point of filler because, after all, those characters don’t mean anything to the series in the long run.  Once the series takes its extremely obvious turn, there are less than 10 episodes left to wrap up what’s left – and that means throwing the first half of the series away to focus on the only two important characters in the series, Rin and Yukio.  That’s not to say that when the turn finally happens, it’s not worthwhile.  By comparison, when all hell breaks loose, only half-proverbially, the production team does a lot better job of developing a semi-cohesive plot that at least keeps you holding on for the remainder of the series.  I’m also pretty sure this is where the series turns from its manga source, which probably continues to use the characters it has developed thus far.  I’m not sure if I’d have been happier to continue the same, slow trend or to go down the fast-paced ending we get that leaves a lot to be desired – but I guess I’d just rather not gone down either path.  All in all, there are meritorious story moments in the series that can’t be ignored, so I won’t say that it failed to deliver, per se, simply that it wasn’t anything special.

Animation:

While the story of Blue Exorcist was fairly deleterious on my opinion of the series as a whole, the remainder of its elements did a decent job in keeping me watching the series.  While the animation wasn’t very creative and the character designs were, let’s face it, blatant rip-offs of other anime (I guess it really is necessary to wear a scarf with booty shorts and a bikini?),

I guess there wasn’t much to complain about regarding the animation as a whole.  It was generic, it was shounen – but it wasn’t bad.  If a show is living up the the industry standards, it’s doing enough for me and there were definitely parts that were animated a bit above the bar, which is commendable.  There are also parts where Shura looks like a broad-shouldered dude, which I guess detracts a bit from the show given that you want your fans to continue watching your show because Shura would be a better main character to follow than Rin (prove me wrong) and the rest of your female cast don’t really have any appeal.  But that’s only a minor problem I had with a few of inconsistencies they had with the character designs, usually Shura was great – the major problem I had was with both of the opening animations.  The two opening songs for this series are awesome (more on this shortly), but their associated animations do NOT go along with the songs, they’re not really suited at all.  Usually in an opening you want to see action in the active moments of the song and perhaps character stills in slower moments, but the animation director for the openings seems like they simply haphazardly threw together an opening without any regard to the song.

Sound:

As already discussed, the openings for this show were both great…songs.  The second ending is also really good, and, actually, both endings do a good job with fitting the song to the animation.  The musical score in the series is relatively good and doesn’t really have any inconsistencies that I can remember, so I don’t really have many qualms with it – it fits the show and is un-intrusive – no complaints is usually a good sign for me for a passing grade on anime music.

Overall:

As you can probably tell, I have more problems with the series than I have praises for it.  That’s not to say the series is really bad – there are definitely some good moments that made me not just drop the show.  Would I recommend it?  I guess it depends on the viewer – if they’re into shounen anime, then probably.  It has just about the same attention span as most of the other shounen anime out there (I’ve actually explained the series to someone as Soul Eater meets D.Gray-man if they were condensed into 25 episodes, which I think is extremely accurate) with similar characters and similar plot devices and similar music and similar animation.  However, if you’re looking for something more, which I usually am, I think there are a lot more thought-provoking, entertaining and ground-breaking things you could be watching.

7/10 – Fails to deliver in several key areas but still is, ultimately, an enjoyable series after reaching its climax.

“I’ll Shake the Galaxy With My Song” : Review of Macross Frontier Movie Adaptations

Macross Frontier:  Itsuwari no Utahime & Sayonara no Tsubasa


I’ve never been a big fan of the Macross series; however, after seeing the movie adaptation of the modern Macross series, I have no idea why.  Perhaps it’s that stigma between Macross and Gundam fandom that always kicked back telling me that if I ever decided I liked Macross that I would be forsaking my roots in Gundam, or maybe it’s just that I always assumed that Macross was a series not worth keeping up with.  But, for whatever reason I decided that I didn’t want to watch Macross up to this point, I’m here to tell you I was wrong.

At the risk of sounding overly-ecstatic about this set of movies, I’m going to go ahead and put it out there that they were absolutely phenomenal.  The two movies just had so much going for them: an outstanding story, complex conflict, perfectly brilliant animation with, for once, well-done CG mecha animation, and anthemic musical scores directed by Yoko Kanno.  This isn’t even mentioning the voice cast, which is also excellent.

To start off, the story for the Macross Frontier movies was a near masterpiece, and I say that without any need for retraction.  What seems like a story about Mecha pilots fighting against unknown space aliens with awesome background music quickly becomes a multifaceted war with enough back story to correctly support the plot.  It would be difficult to talk about the greatness of the story in the Macross Frontier movies without involving the distinct character input into the films.  Ranka Lee evolves from a timid girl singing to the trees and wind to a driving force behind an army, or even the galaxy.  It’s important to note that Ranka’s transformation greatly affects the story because when the characters sing in the series, it signifies plot advancement in some way.  Between Ranka’s innocent singing of “Aimo,” which clearly represents a song of acceptance of the Vajra and the duets with Sheryl that engross fleets and galaxies, Ranka becomes what makes the plot whole.

While it is quite odd to say that something like music drives the movies on, this is definitely what happens.  Sheryl, who is equally important to driving the plot, is a role model for Ranka and also a very complex character.  Sheryl is both a resolution for conflict by singing to alleviate the masses and, in reality, a scapegoat for others to pin the real conflict on.  Initially, I really hated Sheryl.  She is overly confident yet somehow easily manipulated for others schemes.  As the show progresses, there are as many facets to Sheryl’s personality as there are factions in the conflict.  While Ranka stays legitimately innocent, Sheryl is an individual torn between her many personas.  Is she the over-confident and ambitious singer she portrays, a lonely child easily manipulated by evil, or a lover wanting to truly express her feelings?  It becomes apparent that Sheryl’s feelings should be our feelings while watching the film, and that is exactly what is intended.

(Spoiler Alert:  This is one of the more influential scenes from the first movies, but illustrates perfectly the influence of song in these movies)

Also…Watch it in 720p

This video neatly leads me on to the next point about this series of films.  The.  Animation.  Is.  Amazing.  The mecha fights are definitely the best CG animation I have ever seen in anime, and usually CG animation really destroys the conflict for me, but the animation as a whole is just spectacular.  So many scenes stick in my head as being some of the best animation I have seen in anime and there were so many times where the animators were paying such close attention to detail that every shadow fit in its place, every facet of a mech was completely detailed, facial expressions were phenomenal, and the action in both singing and war were vibrant.  I’m not as qualified to talk about animation after having decided against graphic art as a major in college (in lieu of a career in Computer Science), but I must say that you would have to be blind to not notice the beauty in this art.  I challenge any reader to point me to an anime that has better animation while also being so energetic.

The above video should also solidify the power behind the musical scores in the Macross Frontier movies.  It’s not like scenes like this are few and far between in the movies.  The music is used as a driving force, and rightfully so.  Yoko Kanno has been known to make a sub-par anime spectacular just by her musical direction.  Given that these films were great to begin with, think of the effect of this.  And that’s exactly what happens.  The great plot, characters and conflict form a symphony with the artwork and musical scores to produce something that in the anime world constitutes a masterpiece.

Honestly, when I first finished these films, I gave them a pretty high review when giving initial impressions.  Still, I always think it is important to let an anime series sit on you for a day to really sink in, especially in the case of anime movies.  Usually after the excitement of the film has finished overwhelming me, I can give it a more unbiased review and this usually means a point or two lower than my initially forecasted decision.  Instead, I’ve found that this film sticks with you more even after you’ve let the excitement subside.  A day later I woke up with songs from the series of movies stuck in my head and a full understanding of what makes these movies unique and particularly outstanding.  I can no longer consider these films anything but a masterpiece.

Rating:  10/10 – After the beauty of these films sink in, you cannot avoid the talent in every category that these films possess.

Review: Steins;Gate

Review:  Steins;Gate

At 7:00 PM  I was struck by lightning on the grassy plains of Arkansas and realized that there was a time paradox.  I had quickly blazed through the entirety of Steins;Gate over the weekend – minus one episode.  I knew that it was being released on September 14th and that I would have to bide my time for 3 days to complete one of the best anime to have been produced in recent years.  I did not, however, remember that there was a dateline between us and Japan, or worldline, if you will, that made a 3 day wait into only 2 days.  Within 35 minutes of this realization, I had already finished the series and began this review.

I won’t say this will be spoiler-free, but it will be relatively spoiler-free with some comments to be interpreted by the reader.

Rarely do I post on here any more, and even more rarely do I post a review of an entire anime.  Steins;Gate earns this right because of how great it became after I finally got around to watching it.  The beginning of the series sets up the awkward nature of the cast – and they all take  a little getting used to.  When I finally got into the series, though, I fell in love with all of the characters, either for their contribution or detraction to the goals of Okarin, and largely, humanity.  Or simply the character that we find out -right off the bat and with a dry sense of humor- is actually a boy:


Hold off on fapping until halfway through the series…and then don’t, again

The characters of Steins;Gate aren’t all that make the series worth watching, but a few are worth outlining simply because they are legitimately interesting.  Okarin himself is an entity of discussion.

Self-proclaimed mad scientist Okabe Rintarou, or as he likes to call himself, Hououin Kyouma, is particularly interesting.  While he is an obvious failure at being a scientist, he feigns wishing for chaos and to overthrow the world order.  Deep down, his maniacal laughter, nicknaming and constant conversations with an unknown, fake, individual about being stalked by the Organization are superficial and merely a charade to disguise his lack of real knowledge about science.  That being said, he’s not a stupid individual, just one who pretends to think more highly of himself than he actually knows he is.  Daru and he create a good deal of worthless inventions that eventually, incidentally, culminate into a device that serves as a time machine.  He is adamant in his ways, sometimes to a fault, but it makes him into an individual that never gives up and rarely gets knocked down.

I literally screen-capped this immediately.

Makise Kurisu, Christina, The Zombie, The Channeler, Assistant is likely my favorite female lead since Senjougahara in Bakemonogatari- and that’s probably due in part to characters in the show calling them “tsundere.”   I don’t know if it’s the fact that there’s that acknowledgement of the character trope that breaks the character trope barrier, but I absolutely loved this character.  She doesn’t let herself get pushed around without fulfilling her own intent and is willing to make sacrifices for the better of the world.  The above scene captures her ability to push her peers to drive on and continue to do what needs to be done, while still doing it with her own quirks.  I could ramble on forever about Kurisu, but she really made an impact on the series and stood out as a character as a whole.

I will say that the characters were an important driving role in the series, but the plot was also astounding.  What could have been a simple story about changing the past via cell phone messages, and thus altering the future, became much more detailed and in-depth.  The methods of time travel began to increase in complexity as the series itself diverged onto new paths and worldlines.  This was important because each method had its own limitation and introduced its own chaos when utilized.  The simple text message to the past was a starter that caused an entire series of chaos and attempting to amend that chaos.  Beyond time travel, the plot has a bit of everything that should be in a psychological sci-fi thriller anime, including but not limited to a future of dystopia, an organization focusing on world domination via diabolical means, a spectacular growing love story strengthened through time, and death.  The buildup of the show is outstanding, the rising action unforgettable, and by the time the series is nearing its close you will have learned the rules of this series interpretation of time travel and the ending will remain cemented in your mind.

As for ratings, I can’t stand to give this show anything less than a 10/10.

I rarely believe a show to be good enough to receive this rating, as evident by my MyAnimeList.  This show stands out as being one of the better shows to have been created in the last several years and deserves a watch by any dedicated anime fan.

-El Psy Congroo

Review: Top wo Nerae 1 & 2

After watching Top wo Nerae 1 & 2, I’ve got to say that I don’t really know why I hadn’t watched them before this point.  It was probably me being spoiled by new animation to be completely honest.  That being said, after about 5 minutes of watching Top wo Nerae, I got used to it, and obviously Diebuster was already animated how I expected:

Top wo Nerae! started as one would expect for a show focusing around mechs and outer-space.  A young girl who simply cannot do anything in a mech becomes inspired by someone else and puts forth the effort to become a great pilot.  Now, obviously, if you’ve seen any of GAINAX’s other works, this plot seems to fit their exact stereotype.  For example, Gurren Lagann is almost a direct analog to this.  Kamina is to Amano where Simon is to Noriko.  Now, that being said, Top wo Nerae delivers a lot more succinctly than pretty much all of GAINAX’s other works.  Instead of making up science-sounding jargon and going for a completely “do the absolutely impossible” approach, Top wo Nerae seats itself in the scientific theory of relativity.  The fact of space travel is that if we were able to travel at sub-speed of light, we would return to Earth many years later.  The conversion ratios of every fight don’t necessarily seem to coincide, but that is far from relevant.

Gunbuster seems to touch more on the fact that, by being a space pilot, the characters are isolated from the remainder of humanity by saving that humanity they wish for rather than cool and amazing mech action.  Don’t get me wrong.  Some of the fights in Gunbuster are simply epic, ranging from the first appearance of Gunbuster to the first gattai and finally the breathtaking ending that is so amazingly cemented in my memory forever.  Overall, Gunbuster is a story of truly achieving one’s humanity and being accepted.  The final scene in Gunbuster was simply the perfect ending to the OVA.  There was absolutely nothing that could have more beautifully captured and wrapped up the show.

Then came Top wo Nerae 2!, produced almost 20 years after Top wo Nerae! GAINAX has, at this point, perfected their story-telling skills and created an animation style unique to their studio.  Top wo Nerae 2! is, at first glance, a disjoint show from the original series.  It’s unclear where the show falls within the 12000 year gap between the beginning and end of Top wo Nerae! Slowly and surely throughout the series, we learn the importance of this series, which, arguably, makes the original show even more of a masterpiece.  Again, Earth is plagued by space insect alien things.  These, however, seem somewhat different.  GAINAX goes off on their usual limb with this one and gives powers to people called “Topless,” who are supposed to save humanity from the space insects.  We discover that not everything is as it seems, as these insects serve a much more unbelievable purpose to humanity.  Diebuster only falls short of being as good as its predecessor in that Nono and Lal’C are not nearly as good of characters as Noriko and Amano.  Still, enter a completely brilliant, yet entirely different, story with a cast of characters you just can’t hate and you’ve got a show that truly delivers for any anime fan.

Honestly, all I can say is that Top wo Nerae! has made me entirely rethink how I’ve felt about every anime I’ve watched to this day.  I wish more anime would “Aim for the Top!”

Top wo Nerae!:

  • Characters: 10/10
  • Story: 10/10
  • Art: 9/10 (for its time)
  • Overall: 10/10

Top wo Nerae 2!:

  • Characters: 8/10
  • Story: 9/10
  • Art: 10/10
  • Overall: 9/10