Category Archives: Ratings Index

Garo -Honō no Kokuin [91/100]

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Keita Amemiya got his start in the anime industry in character monster designing with 1989’s Ultraman. His first created work had been on Iria: Zeiram The Animation.  An action sci-fi adventure series.  Where he really shines though is in his fantasy works–  Mahou ShoujotaiGaro and horror OVA G-9.

Makai Knights under a code of honor by the Order are sent throughout the land to kill Horrors–  humans that are consumed by their own grief and/or hatred.  German’s wife is killed by being burned at the stake fueling the inevitable witch hunts led by Valiante King’s advisor Mendoza.  Some of the best narratives are the side-cast that Garo focuses on.  The horror doctor, the mother and child outed from their village, the blacksmith overcome by his grief of losing his son–  so many personal issues with these minor characters really build this world into a larger piece that plays onto Mendoza’s hatred wonderfully well.  His backstory is awesome:  he throws his wife and child off a cliff because they are marked just like him after he was banished from the Order as a Makai Alchemist because he was power hungry.

Ema Guizman is one of the strongest female characters of the past few seasons–  she’s doesn’t believe in the Makai Knights and tries to shoulder everything on her own.  The episode where her love with human-turned horror Luciano really illustrates the relationships people have with each other and how the code these Makai Knights and Alchemists follow can sometimes in unfortunate circumstances can change them.  Sometimes though the plot is flimsy–  the handmade Garo Knight felt entirely out of left field just for the sake of bringing back blacksmith apprentice Juliano.  Sometimes there’s overacting in times that doesn’t need to be just to deliver a more intense mood.  However, overall the story is so good that it’s easily passable.

The soundtrack is just as good as the art–  really dark and ambitious.  MONACA founder Keiichi Okabe is amazing–  I couldn’t tell this came from the same group that did the score of Hourou Musuko!  It has understated piano tracks and very toned down drum sections compared to Hiroyuki Sawano.  It works wonderfully in this series that is subtle with its grim narratives.  If you are a fan of Mahou Shoujotai, enjoy watching fantasy series with more mature themes than I highly recommend this series that is a twisted take on the tokusatsu genre!

Let’s see more original series from Amemiya like this one in the future!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [91/100]

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata [73/100]

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From the past few episodes I knew this series would be around the 70’s rating range for me.  I’m not such a huge fan of harem series however Saenai hits a lot of the right notes in being unconventional.  Based on a light novel series hat leads to collection of successful witty narratives between different female tropes about doujin creation.  If only the creators took the time in developing some kind of tie-in to how a dating sim game is created.  Perhaps they should have taken note from Bakuman was with the manga industry and how it had gradually shifted nicely between making serialization deadlines to timeframe of artwork and writing chapters.  I hope that the second season rectifies this glaring issue for me.  Aside from that the pacing in this is gradual, something that director Kanta Kamei knows really well on how to achieve after seeing his work on Usagi Drop.

The music score by Hajime Hyakkoku is toned down in the impact and yet a lot of the pieces throughout Saenai‘s episodes end up being up-lifting.  Tons of keyboard compositions.  Similar to his other works on K-On! and Gugure! Kokkuri-san.

This is much better than his directorial disaster on Nanana—  I believe that show had a poor scenario writer and planner.  Saenai for most of its run was very funny–  introduced its trope characters of Utaha and Eriri with just enough background that is familiar in this genre and still remains a refreshing contrast to Tomoya’s drive for anything that defines him as an otaku.  His room illustrates this point greatly.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [73/100]

Mushishi Zoku Shou [98/100]

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This is my 299th post and what better way to end this here than with my final review of Mushishi‘s second half Zoku Shou.

There really isn’t a single series out there like this one.  This show is awesome!  What anime series lack in characterization Mushishi more than makes up for in its wide cast.  This is certainly a show that blows just about every other anime out of the water by focusing on people individually.  A big applause to Yuki Urushibara for writing such etherial and sometimes relaxing stories!  A lot of the episodes come across being really deep in its settings and themes but what really sets this anime apart from the rest is the atmosphere it gradually maintains–  luscious forests and even snow scenes with glowing mushi allows for this series to come off quite beautiful visually!

The extra is how strong the music is.  While the stories about people being afflicted by mushi in some form or another tackles japanese folklore and legends its very much in the way of its soundtrack that delivers the authenticity that this show is known for.  It sets itself up nicely for the viewer.  Toshio Masuda,  I’ve mentioned him before in Kamisama Kiss’ recent episode post and how well diverse he is getting to be as a composer.  Without a doubt Mushishi still stands as the best work he’s ever done and without it I do not believe Ginko’s tales would have been so effective.

When Zoku Shou got announced I was rather worried because there are times when series do come back for a sequel and some of the staff doesn’t return;  which can greatly hinder the differences between seasons drastically for the viewer.  A fine example of this was last season’s Psycho-Pass 2 in how the writer and production studio changed.  With Mushishi,  just as the stories are authentic it strived to adapt the manga with so much heart it had to have just about every staff member return.

Director Hiroshi Nagahama most known for helping conceive Revolutionary Girl Utena‘s animated work hasn’t done much but what he has achieved has been incredible.  This guy has done wonders for this series, to be able to maintain such consistency in every keeping the high standards the first season had set after having such a large gap between seasons 1 and 2 is an amazing achievement in itself!  One of my favorite series that he actually created was Simoun.  As for the animation I personally think its some of the best we’ve had of 2014 and Studio Artland pulled it off once again!  Mushishi isn’t flashy and doesn’t like to show off but more importantly what it aims at is whether or not it can tell a solid narrative.

This second season I think may have had some of the best chapters adapted.  It’s also one of the few anime series that has animated every single chapter a mangaka has ever done!  We start off with a sake brewer and his connection with his father’s wishes to be the best there is to episodes like Komori E and Koten no Hoshi that bring families even closer together by shifting the focus away from Ginko and using the mushi as the mediator to point things out.

Then there are some really dark stories that come off even better than the light-hearted ones!  Stories where people disappear into nothingness, chopping off heads to keep a woman alive, getting frostbitten, a fish-like boy turning into water to people killing each other out of rage–  these were episodes that were definitely on another level.  While they weren’t cruel they just put humans in ethical predicaments.  The mushi for the most of Zoku Shou remains a principal string that ties these episodes together into the genre of supernatural so well.  It’s because of that this anime is also able to develop these minor characters into the grand scheme of things.  The reoccurring theme of survival and what comes with it.  The life-cycle that is represented in a lot of Mushishi episodes conveys a strong message about morality and what kinds of customs the characters of this series follow and sometimes don’t.

Mushishi can make us laugh and cry within a single episode while pondering so many questions about human connections and even teach us about Japanese traditions.  A powerfully moving anime that invokes a spirited presence with stunning visuals and an enriching collection of ideas about our existence and the people that we connect with that can make it a fulfilling life.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [98/100]

Shingeki no Bahamut: GENESIS [75/100]

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If someone asked me to define this series in one word I would have to say “entertaining”.  As this is exactly what this show was trying to do, it didn’t follow most adventure anime series with it’s incessant scenes of sexuality, deus-ex machina like how BLEACH or even Naruto suffers from at times, but MAPPA succeeded in bringing a japanese-based card game series to life!

Shingeki almost feels at times not like anime in the way it pushes tons of Pirates of the Caribbean ideas around the supernatural aspect that the card game is known for–  demons and angels at war with each other where the humans of this story are used as pieces of entertainment for them.

For the most part this series was well-paced and coming from Gegege no Kitaro season 5’s script writer Keiichi Hasegawa this was like an entirely different realm for him that worked out well for his repertoire.  Without a doubt though episode 3 was one of the best episodes that used necromancers in introducing Miyuki Sawashiro’s Rita as a main cast member by building up the town around her in such a darkly and grisly-defining way.

Also, if any of you recall me mentioning how the music to this is more film-quality like than you’ll understand how many similarities it has to Karas’ score and Tiger & Bunny’s collection of orchestral pieces.  It’s strong and hard-hitting that allow the emotional scenes of this series to really carry over and IKE is great at pulling this off!  While the staff of this consisted mainly of the same creators that worked on Karas and Tiger & Bunny this worked out in their favor for a lot of the episodes but what has surprised me the most was the voice acting–  Go Inoue’s performance as Kaisar provided a style of insecurity in upholding his family name while having his lackluster scenes against Space Dandy Meow’s Hiroyuki Yoshino as Favaro.

However, the best seiyu of this is a tie between Rita’s Miyuki Sawashiro and how much she was able to downplay the role with subtle remarks about her zombie nature.  The other being Martinet’s Kenjiro Tsuda–  an accomplished seiyu that reminds me somewhat of what Johnny Depp does in his roles as a film actor.  Versatile in giving voices to a wide-range of characters that give off an oddball yet mysterious sound to enhance each anime personality, and Shingeki was no different: given that Martinet was a maniacal human tampering in the affairs between demons, angels and of his own kind.

Not everything in this series shined as there were episodes in the middle part that seemed to take a backseat to the adventurous ride that focus on Favaro and Amira’s journey to Helheim.  The actual card capturing had only been shown at least three times in this series and as much as I enjoy the trick that Favaro and Kaisar pull on Martinet in the finale with it I can say it should have been more prevalent in this series considering how it uses source material from this very idea.

More of the world could have been expanded here and the traveling side of things should have been explored to great length in not just establishing the relationships between Favaro and Amira constantly escaping Kaisar’s clutches but in how the other side-lined demons could handle situations as they arise.  Colorful animation in the scenes of the underworld and in the skies with the demons and angels but when it comes to plot development not much remains to be enhanced.

However putting the gripes I had with this if you are looking for a series that is short but fun and fluid in its animation then look no further than Shingeki no Bahamut: GENESIS!  Animation by Zankyou no Terror and Sakamichi no Apollon’s studio MAPPA brings a style all its own here that gives off this idea that sometimes anime stories can be something leaps and bounds separate than the action/adventure anime series of the norm.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [75/100]

PSYCHO-PASS 2 [40/100]

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I’m going to keep this short because I feel that the review of the final episode covered most of my thoughts on this series as a whole.  When I heard that a second season was announced for Noitamina’s 2014 lineup I was overjoyed.  It’s been awhile since we’ve had a really good cyberpunk anime series, last one that I can remember having such an influence into the genre was the Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex series that Production I.G. developed in the early 2000’s.  The first season of Psycho-Pass used wonderful ideas about a futuristic dystopian society that followed the rules under a secretive system that with the first season had been let out of its cage by an asymptomatic killer Shougo Makishima and his tenacious behavior at influencing others to unleash their own aspirations of behind heard through killing.  Following the events with Kougami gone missing, Akane gaining the Shepherd I title and having complete authority over Division I puts her into quite a strong role for this second series.

Kirito Kamui, one of the series villains was used here as the focal point in evolving Sibyl into a collective entity but threw Akane to the sidelines by the end.  This wasn’t the only part of the show that went wrong here:  Yugo Kanno’s strong orchestral sound was replaced by a new style of his that did not work one bit–  electronica.  Also the series’ writer was changed from Gen Urobuchi to Tow Ubukata of Mardock Scramble and I can definitely tell it’s in every way inferior to its predecessor.

New enforcers were unveiled in this second season with Sho Hinakawa whom only speaks three words in the entire show that barely has screen time voiced by Makishima’s seiyu Takahiro Sakurai.  Then there is Sakuya Togane a mother-obsessed enforcer that oddly reminded Akane of Kougami of the first season a few times that turns out to be the other villain of this series with this highest crime coefficient ever recorded.  I think what targeted this series wasn’t the story as much as it was its under-developed characters including the schoolgirl-turned inspector Mika Shimotsuki that was more of an annoyance to not just the people she worked with but the viewer as well.

With the return of Production I.G. in the animation spot for the film and Gen Urobuchi’s return for the script I hope to see great things just as I did with the first season.  As for this second season this was a great example of what doesn’t make a series shine.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [40/100]

Space Dandy [Seasons 1 and 2] [99/100]

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Episode **: I Can’t Write a Review with Stale Words, Baby

Instead of talking about just the 2nd half or rather Season 2 I thought it’d be better to discuss this in its entirety: Episodes 1 through 26, we are finally at the end [for now] one that has been a stupendous ride.  Now this is an anime that takes risks, one that says screw it with conventions; it is a series that takes a concept only to reintroduce it in an entirely obscure way!  This sci-fi adventure comedy is absolutely perfect, and if I had to nitpick something it would be that we did not get enough scenes of the Boobies restaurants or even more of Admiral Perry.  Aside from that, Space Dandy has a been monumental anime series in the genre of space opera.

Wacky, fun, weird, and downright hilarious narratives that Dandy is thrown into with tales of an alien hunter and his companions.  This series very much could have ended on episode 14 as it returned the world to a somewhat rightful place but there was a catch–  an entirely different kind of Dandy and crew!  A show that always seems to create loose ends yet explain them in future episodes.

Space Dandy is a visual feast and the stories were so eclectic– Dandy decides to become a racer, catch a big fish, sing in a high-school built on musicals, gets captured by giant talking plants, meets aliens that have no reflection only to fall in love with a woman who is the essence of a planet, joins a rock group with the leader of the Jaicro Empire, travels through a 2-dimensional world and fought off a giant omnivorous booby monster.   It took on tons of challenges by being varied, where its content was boundless in the people on screen, and animation designs it took ideas and ran with them with just about every episode delivering amazing results!

Shinichiro Watanabe [General Director] oversees the project with various animators, episode directors, scenario writers and musical artists:  what a clever idea!  So many influences that tackle each story in creating an overwhelming universal science fiction comedy series.  There were a ton of big names in the industry working on this huge project that Watanabe wanted to tell.

Masaaki Yuasa one of my favorite directors in the business helmed Episode 16 that tells the story of a talking carp and his hardships to get back home with the help of Dandy and his misfit companions!  This was one of the most unusual tales of Dandy that we had as it shifted the world that Shingo Natsume [Director] and Watanabe built up with a dose of Yuasa’s perspective and storytelling.  As hilarious as these episodes have been, one that definitely stands out is the rock and roll adventure that Dandy experiences with his galactic buddy Johnny.  Every idea of starting a rock band would’ve have been thrown in, and Sayo Yamamoto wrote a powerful piece about how much music can sway human emotions even!

One of the more surprising directors of the 2nd half had to be Yasuhiro Nakura:  this is where Dandy experiences an other-worldy dimension caught up between life and death and needs to get out of the planet Limbo!  Nakura is not only a director but an animator as well, as he was the one who drew the characters for Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis. A fantastic cyberpunk drama film about self-discovery and corruption and with an episode of Space Dandy about the contemplation of death it was nice to have a long-time director of this caliber put to good use in this.  We also had some extremely talented animators on this episode as well–  Kazumi Inadome of UN-GO’s character designs and Chikashi Kubota of Shikabane Hime on top of the original character designer of the show Yoshiyuki Ito.  Incredible stuff!  These were just a few of the staff members behind the production of Space Dandy, but one aspect I’ve neglected to mention more notably in my previous posts are the composers that bring these tales to life!

After reading quite a few staff interviews and anime panel discussions Watanabe and his team sought out a lot of people for this project that some even turned down: one of them being Hideaki Anno [director of Neon Genesis Evangelion].  It’s a shame really, because he could have given us a wildly produced philosophical turn to the many worlds of Dandy.

Without ado I want to talk about the style of music that the creators chose for this.  KenKen and Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro provided a lot of the jazz scores incorporated into Space Dandy, I can definitely see an influence by Yoko Kanno as she has worked with Watanabe on numerous works including Zankyou no Terror and Sakamichi no Apollon.  Mabanua wrote some pieces to Sakamichi no Apollon and there is one track especially that I can hear sounds reminiscent of the late Nujabes [musical composer of Samurai Champloo] with their musical style!

LUVRAW&BTB provided one of the best songs out of the entire season with I’m Losing You [featured in Episode 23].  Without the use of these amazing artists and many more I felt that Space Dandy would not have been as energetically meaningful as it was:  episodes that immersed you into the varied inhabitants of oddly designed planets that tied together in developing fantastic space adventures.

There are a few other shows I can think of that had a similar effect on me:  MushishiCowboy BebopSamurai ChamplooTrigun and Master Keaton.  Obviously, as you can tell some of the works listed here are Watanabe projects as he has this creative vision at delivering such entertaining series that push the limits outside of the box.  Take the traditional anime of today, shows like Ben-To, Highschool DxD, Nisekoi, heck even Free! might look really good in terms of animation but lack substance.  Fan-service that most of the time will overwhelm a story with struggling characters that are often change emotionally for the sake of the plot resulting in sometimes weak endings.  I’m actually rather disappointed in the state of the anime industry, but every season we get a few gems and Space Dandy is one of them.

I would highly recommend a first-time watcher of Japanese anime to this series, that is if you can handle the occasional perverse tongue in cheek humor.  Space Dandy has single-handedly toppled all of Watanabe’s previous works! [even Zankyou no Terror] Week after week this anime series just worked flawlessly–  it made me laugh, cry, and rooting for Dandy and his friends whether their decisions were in the right or not!

It ranks as my #1 best anime series of all time beating Cowboy Bebop by a hair. A spiritual successor to a very fundamental show that generated a success in gathering new fans worldwide.  This has been a wonderful sci-fi series that includes many Bebop homages from Dr. Gel looking like Jet, the bird in the final episode, the fridge that has shown up numerous times,  Dandy’s line in the Lovers are Trendy episode where he says bang.  I’m sure there are some that I’ve missed out on as there had been tons of other references as well including: Eureka Seven, Hagane no Renkinjitsushi, Google, Chuck Norris, and the reveal of Admiral Perry.

Dandy acquires a large amount of pionium and episode after episode they seem to foreshadow the fact that he’s split himself up into different universes and timelines.  Never would have thought that this show would have utilized the multiverse theory in such detail like it did in subtle fashion adding elements of the real heart of this story inside of all these random episodes where Dandy turns into a zombie, dies numerous times either from getting blown up, being replaced by another version of himself, dancing until the world explodes, and turning down god for boobies.

Which moves to my next point as to why this show is so clever it has unbelievable dialogue.  It’s great that many viewers have been given the chance to see this show [that is the first of its kind I might add] to premiere a show in English prior to its Japanese airing.  There are quite a few lines throughout that remain subtitled in English, as they are kept intact in a native tongue in order to express the level of realism that this show has captured with its diverse worlds and creative aliens.  Nonetheless, one part of this show that is much more humorous than the Japanese is how well the English is came through in Dandy and the large cast he encountered on his various adventures.  Having learned from the downfall that Cowboy Bebop had in its initial broadcast run back in 1997, it feels as though Shinichiro Watanabe devoted this animated work to the Western fans of anime.

With a wide range of voice actors, episode directors and animators  Space Dandy was able to pay homage to many science fiction films and novels of the past.  Without a doubt this was the best anime of the year and one series that should not be missed, that is to say that this is as Dandy as any show can get!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 99/100

If you like this you might also enjoy:

–  Cowboy Bebop

–  Outlaw Star

– Space Adventure Cobra

Zankyou no Terror [Terror in Tokyo] [97/100]

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Bless by Arnor Dan is one of the best insert songs I’ve heard all year and such incredible direction!  This was without a doubt one of the best series to air this entire summer season, and I stand by what I’ve said previously– Zankyou no Terror is the best work that Shinichiro Watanabe has ever done.  Now, only time will tell if this still rings true as we’ve still got the final episode of Space Dandy [Watanabe’s other work] to air.  I also stick by what I’ve said about the music production of this show: This is Yoko Kanno’s most compelling soundtrack of her entire career!

 

As stunning as the visuals and the score have been, for Zankyou it isn’t much about what’s being shown on screen rather than what is the underlining meaning behind it all.  As I have said many times before, Zankyou is a show that leaves nothing behind, it does its research [thermite reactions, dismantling a bomb, to the scenes of the bombings].  VON means ‘hope’ in Icelandic and from what I’ve gathered here, is that Sphinx didn’t want to harm anyone.  All they wanted was to be noticed after being neglected and tossed aside in a misguided attempt to improve the structure of the country.  Sphinx’s goal– the collapse of current-day Japan, a society that loosened up after World War II, separating itself from being a strong nation into one that could revitalize itself by starting over–a step, although a primitive one, so to speak, was an attempt at justice or perhaps, revenge.

 

Nevertheless, it took a year to regain what Sphinx had done, and it is their cause that gave the youth of Japan a voice.  Miyami and Aoki wanted to dismiss Shibazaki’s investigation into the Athena Plan, so when Miyami questioned Shibazaki about whether or not he would go to the authorities, it was a two-sided endeavor.  One that wasn’t meant just for the adults in this show but for the kids as well.  Quoting Miyami here further establishes this:

“…no more than a small voice in the midst of a storm. That voice will disappear before it reaches anyone.”

Mukasa also clearly pointed out a crucial piece to understanding Sphinx a bit further very early on.  If I recall it was around Episode 3 where he says,

“Anyway, don’t you think Sphinx is lonely, too? They probably just want attention. They’re kids aren’t they?”

Kids that were stripped of their childhood, as well as the very will to live.  We see this theme strongly hinted at with Five’s personality.  Hellbent on tracking Nine down, to beat him at his own game, and this episode, illustrated very well the impact she made on the FBI.  They didn’t want these kids doing whatever they wanted and pulling a trigger on a bomb anytime, anywhere.

However, this is one of the issues I have with this series.  Five is a very clichéd villain in that she’s got a temper that feels completely out of place for the FBI, and when she goes overboard at the airport putting a bomb on a plane, why wouldn’t the FBI just stop her?  Why did Clarence even go along with her plan to capture Nine?  There were so many inconsistencies with the FBI and her character that it felt rather forced just to push this story quickly ahead.  If Five had to be in this at all, she should have been eliminated after her decision on the airport situation.

We saw throughout this show, that young people were utilizing technology so prevalently that they (just as the children from the Settlement) had forgotten how to interact with each other, whether forced by higher-ups or societal change.  I do want to point out that Mukasa playing his video games largely indicated this.  I was surprised to find that this was the real meaning behind Sphinx’s actions– a vital theme to the very end.  To renew Japan to a time that would not allow for such atrocities to occur were in the words of Shibazaki:

“A long time ago, when I was young, there were teenagers who threw rocks at the riot police and fought against the government. Even though Sphinx are called terrorists now, in a different time… they might’ve been called something else.”

Looking back, the English title Terror in Resonance isn’t even about the explosions Sphinx set off throughout Japan but in how everyone in this series had a role that would be detrimental to the progression of the story.  Shibazaki a washed out detective who is at the tip of a government conspiracy would only unravel into injustice in order to release himself from his past [Shunzo Miyami’s death].  Kurahashi maintaining his position as chief of the Japanese police all the while staying on the good side of the FBI, the wrecked home and school life of Lisa accurately depicts her gradual transition throughout this anime between depressed teenager to a young woman searching for a subtle and sweet acceptance from terrorists [Nine and Twelve].

Even the FBI tries to stand firm in taking over for the Japanese police in recovering the atomic bomb, while for a while there it worked but Five ultimately shook this up quite a bit.  They didn’t want to make it known that they had been a large part of Japan’s underhanded plan to whisk children away in order to not just improve the country but the possibility of enhancing the populace worldwide.  Considering how this plan had backfired the mass media couldn’t know about their involvement thus resulting in the astounding repercussions at the Settlement with Nine and Twelve in the final episode.

In short Zankyou no Terror is a stunningly beautiful piece of art in the anime industry:  A heart-felt nihilistic journey towards retribution that is just a slight take on the modern-day issues of terrorism and corruption.

 

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [97/100]

Captain Earth [82/100]

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If there are fans of Star Driver reading my posts then you will understand when I say this that you will love this series.  It’s exactly like it, the awakening of giant robots by singing, Daichi following his destiny of becoming a captain is just as similar to Takuto’s claim to Ginga Bishonen [Galactic Pretty Boy].   Even the Kill-T-Gang  are ripped straight from the the Glittering Crux Brigade!  Even the bond that Akari, Teppei, Daichi and Hana share remind me so much of Takuto, Wako, and Sugata!  It’s not just in the style of animation BONES chose to use here but the soundtrack remains relatively similar as well!

I may enjoy a series a ton but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some objections to how they might be designed.

Satoru Kosaki helms the soundtrack to Captain Earth.  This guy’s a member of MONACA, which was founded in 2004 by Haruhi Suzumiya’s Keiichi Okabe and is the main source of music in Star Driver as well.  I have a problem with this guy.  Both he and Hiroyuki Sawano do not have a very creative edge when it comes to writing up scores– I’ve said this before and I will say it again Sawano is productive with his musical tastes and so is Kosaki.  Could definitely mix some of the tracks we had in here with Shingeki no Kyojin, Kill la Kill, hell even some older shows like Outlaw Star or Mobile Suit Gundam Wing!  Just goes to show not much has changed since 2010 with Kosaki’s music.  I absolutely love it when anime deliver very different productions but here is where this is just recycled material.  One that is fun and highly enjoyable on the outside but very dry and repetitive on the inside.

So the story is that Daichi’s father dies from saving Earth from the attacks of the Kill-T-Gang, and upon learning this he takes it upon himself to become a captain.  When he was a kid he stumbled across a mysterious facility where he met Teppei and Hana– both have unique abilities one that can summon a giant ship the Blume and the other has an Ego Block.  A digitalized box that holds all the power that that person possess and it’s also said that is is what makes the Kill-T-Gang live forever. Captain Earth sure loves to throw in terminology left and right throughout the series without ever explaining it previously.  Can’t say I like it when it does this but it does move the story along, just as Star Driver did.

2-cour series like this one have the luxury of evolving its characters very well without ever worrying about pacing, and that’s exactly what Yoji Enokido did!  The Midsummer’s Knights went in a solid direction, and with Igarashi’s previous works he’s known for having a formulaic character of the week be introduced for 5 or 6 episodes straight.  It wasn’t boring because those Kill-T-Gang members lead normal lives outside of their main mission– Amara and Moco work at a crepe truck,  Zin a dealer at a casino, Lin a competitive motorcycle racer, Ai is an idol singer, Baku the boxing champion, and Setsuna a somewhat normal girl.  This is the one part of the show I really loved even more than the main plot, because even the side-cast that weren’t even a part of the overall story arc were there to establish the world these alien-beings live in, and what they would be missing if it ends up getting wiped out by them.

Igarashi is a director that sure knows how to  lay a foundation of strong characters but where this series falls flat on its face is predictability with the main story.  Hana grows to have feelings for Daichi and this only gets rejected once when she decides to leave the team, Teppei questions his place in the world after he’s destroyed his Ego Block, and the adults including Nishikubo hold on to such strong regrets about leaving behind a mess for the children of the future to clean up.

All in all it’s a coming-of-age drama where the teenagers in this show must realize that to save everything that they hold dear they need to stand up for what they believe in and fight!  Even if it is with Livlaster guns, Engine Impactors and the power of friendship!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 82/100

If you like this you might also enjoy:

–  STAR DRIVER

–  Aquarion EVOL

– Sacred Seven

Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii [75/100]

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When was the last time we had a memorable shojo anime?  Some I can think of off the top of my head are Nana and Nodame Cantabile.  The summer season has got a few that are somewhat decent– Ao Haru Ride which is filled with drama that goes back and forth each episode of a competition between Futaba and Yuki over Ko, and then there is Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun an anime that is trying way too hard at being funny and the romance just gets sidelined.  I almost feel sorry for Sakura’s failed attempts at getting her point across to Nozaki.  Those are the only two that stick out of the summer season and they aren’t even that good.  Back in the Spring season we had this show and Kawai Complex, while that show was a lot prettier to look at and more humorous it lacked in authentic romance.  Soredemo rocks at the dramatic love scenes!  The writers pulled off a fairly simple and tasteful love story between Livius and Nike.  There were no panty or breast shots of Nike, and she did not suffer at all from a tsundere, which is very prevalent in shojo series with a character sways to the extremes of love and hatred towards the boy she likes.  Come to think of it the best at this trope has got to be Kyoko Mogami of Skip Beat!.  Nike grew pretty realistic with her affections towards Livius as this series progressed, nice work here!

The author, Daii Shina does a good job at setting up a romantic atmosphere for its characters, but the problem is however a lot of the details remain sidelined.  What’s going on with neighboring countries and how are they affected by the situation that one of the most powerful men in all the land is getting married.  Soredemo might have achieved a decent love story between a king and princess but the big picture left me not very impressed with little to no structure around the surrounding areas that this story is set in.  This feels a little rushed in a few places as it’s only got 12 episodes to work with in adapting an ongoing manga.  Wonder if there will be another season of this, as this ending left it completely open.

Now onto the director of this show- Hajime Kamegaki.   This is a guy who directed the aggressive skating series Air Gear, which got to hand it to the animation team at Satelight for creating some very cool looking OVAs.  He’s known for directing anime that aren’t too heavy and typically aren’t obscure in terms of story and animation.  I’d probably rank this not as high as some of his other works due to how formulaic it is the situations Livius gets thrown into are all fairly similar.  He wasn’t given as much freedom as he had on Air Gear with this series, and it really shows with the villains.

Now with the voices by far my favorite has got to be Nike’s Rena Maeda.  She provided a very good balance between her courageous acts and heartfelt scenes with Livius and without a doubt the most realistic character of the entire show.  I am curious how well she will do in Kiseijuu this fall.

So Nike controls the rain with her singing and it has been passed down from generation to generation, where it is her destiny to marry the Sun King Livius.  At the start this romance series keeps up at being faithful to the manga in developing the bond between the two main characters, and this is the big part of the show that made it so engaging to me.  Neil was a nice balance between Livius controlling behavior and Nike’s temper– he’s a butler that provides calm resolutions to Livius’s problems throughout this show.  Bard, a womanizer just adds more depth to how much Nike loves Livius, and vice-versa.  The big problem that this series suffers from is its villains. Lani Aristes wanted to take control of the throne and the soon-to-be marriage with Nike only fueled this a lot more.  But the result is he’s forgiven and completely leaves the scene after 6 episodes. We break this with Bard’s introduction and possibility of him being a villain but once again the story treats him as wanting to protect Livius just as Nike does.  Same thing with Nike’s home with Kitora and Tohara.  As interesting as these characters were the story arrives at the same conclusion, and we are left with a formulaic anime that doesn’t even have other kingdoms introduced and fighting for land. That would have made this show a lot more well-grounded in the time that it is set in.

I hope with this new Fall season ahead we will actually get some series that use the shojo genre in various ways that take risks– looking at you Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 75/100

If you like this you might also enjoy:

– Lovely Complex

– Kaichou wa Maid-sama

– Onegai Teacher

 

 

Kill la Kill [90/100]

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So with my final impression underway I will try to refrain from spoiler plot points for those that have not seen this show.

Without a doubt in my mind this was one of my favorite anime series to have aired in the Fall 2013 to Winter 2014 timeslot.  That season wasn’t as difficult to figure out what was good and what ended up being horrible unlike the spring and summer season of this year that we’ve had.  Putting aside some of the great offerings of the Winter 2014 season, the Fall 2013 season was for the most part nonexistent.

Kyoukai no Kanata [Beyond the Boundary] was a very beautiful series to watch but the plot was lacking whole heartedly.  Samurai Flamenco was crazy fun with all of the changing of genres yet the ending didn’t feel complete.  Originally I stopped watching Diabolik Lovers only to later finish it after it’s airing and it was one of the worst anime adaptations from an otome game I’ve ever seen.  Galilei Donna had promise with the use of history about Galileo but ended up being too short for how much material the creators chose to include.  Coppelion had pretty background visuals and a neat premise at first but here just like Galilei Donna fell short due to it’s rushed and incoherent ending.  Pupa was a short-lived disaster that was only getting delayed because the television broadcasters were too afraid of airing risky gory animation.  This resulted in the final product of the blu-ray being horribly animated. The only other series aside from Kill la Kill that I can think of that had a lasting impression on me was Kyousogiga.  Talk about an inventive  science fiction and fantasy series- one that takes you to a whole other level.  Reminded me a little bit of Mahou Shoujotai in how the world was very mystical.  Kyosogiga was a really unique show to watch each week!

Hiroyuki Imaishi the director of Gurren Lagann, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt and got his start as a key animator for Anno’s Evangelion series left Gainax with Masahiko Ohtsuka to establish their new animation studio. Trigger.  Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the best mecha series I have ever seen it was just written exceptionally well.

Kill la Kill is something of a spiritual successor to Gurren Lagann– without that show I do not believe this anime nor Anime Mirai Projects’ Little Witch Academia would have been made.  Gurren influenced so many themes that Kill la Kill uses throughout its progression- with the overall presentation being ‘intensified’.

Ryuko Matoi the average transfer student with a mysterious past is hell-bent on revenge- sounds simple right?  Uncovering the mysterious other half of her scissor blade only to embark on a journey with oddly-formed friendships and the boldness to show some skin.  She’s a lot like Yoko from Gurren in how she is viewed by the men throughout the series- both anime known for fan service sequences largely incorporated into the plot.  A lot of the times in Gurren while it would come off as extremely funny I felt like it was unnecessary for the heart of the story.  Here it is portrayed as a strong structure as clothing and sexuality became the big message of Kill la Kill.  Incorporating this as the main focus in mind- with the help of Gainax’s animation techniques makes out its visuals to be uniquely engaging and attractive.

This is a series that illustrates the mahou shojo genre fairly well as it piles on with each episode a fierce performance with the intention of being profoundly seductive.  This is where its interesting as Senketsu is the motivational force in pushing Ryuko further and further into something more than just a schoolgirl.  This does however spiral in a huge reveal towards the end- I’d say I was pretty satisfied with that moment.  Very interesting concept to develop clothing as more than what it is- quite the element of surprise for an anime that looks to be your typical action/adventure series.

The big problem however is in how this show portrays its villains.  At first we are to believe its Satsuki Kiryuin and her Elite Four of the student council, but in fact it’s just a mother with the desire to control the world.  This has been done to death in anime series!

The soundtrack, where do I even start? It was quite powerful but it had its share of issues.  Hiroyuki Sawano is becoming one of the most productive composers in the industry- being that he has so much on his list since 2011, and he’s got a ton of works on his plate even this year!  The problem however is how indistinguishable every song is- and it’s not just in this anime that he has done this to- in where he chooses high impact rather than being influentially creative with diversity.  You could paste some of the tracks he’s provided for this show into Aldnoah.Zero and it would have worked just the same.  I will say that he’s got a knack for an explosive style that creates passionate sequences- songs that are very compelling to give a listen to but where there is not a whole lot of substance like composer Yoko Kanno has pulled off.  Zankyou no Terror, Cowboy Bebop, Sakamichi no Apollon, and even Darker than Black were widely varied- I could go on with her list of incredibly mixed compositions!

If Mako Mankanshoku hadn’t been in Kill la Kill I’m sure I would have rated this around a 80 or so.  She is the best character in this series as she personifies the best friend trope so well.  A wacky and playful schoolgirl is just the break this show needed from all the adrenaline pumping action scenes and intense angst-filled drama.  I’d also like to mention how cool Tsumugu was- that’s one hell of a way to give someone an introduction in Episode 5!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 90/100

If you like this you will also enjoy:

– Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

– Basquash!

– FLCL