Category Archives: Series Completed

GANGSTA Episode 6

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Director of this episode, Shinpei Nagai might have landed his best work out of his entire career.  Having worked on a huge list of ecchi romance works including the infamous episode 18 of Psycho-Pass he’s sort of a mixed bag in the industry.  If any recall the Psycho-Pass series director [Naoyoshi Shiotani] apologized on his twitter about the animation being poorly done.  A lot of issues with the animation being outsourced, and with Nagai in charge of that department I’m sure some of the heat landed on him.  Anyway, Nagai shouldn’t be a full-fledged director–Danna ga Nani o Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken is proof of that.  Nor should he even be key animating shows–Psycho-Pass‘ episode 18 was awful.  One of his highlights, however, that was messy and paid off nicely was Michiko e Hatchin‘s episode 19.  It featured a train sequence that had very gritty and messed up animation that for some reason flowed together nicely with the large amounts of movement and intriguing camera angles it contained.  Reminds me of the work Eunyoung Choi does for Masaaki Yuasa.  Nagai’s directing on single episodes are good–Samurai Flamenco‘s premiere was very strong.

I’ve neglected to mention who worked on the opening in my previous posts.  The opening sequence is directed by Pyeon-Gang Ho.  Episode director of episode 7’s Zankyou no Terror and at least two episodes that I know of from Baby Steps.  One of the best openings of the season!

Nicholas and Worwick’s pasts bears a lot on their current situation as Twilight and holder.  As it was revealed previously we learn that there are Normals that maintain control over their Twilight slaves.  The Arcangelo parents death that has been quickly shown in flashbacks pays a heavy weight on Worwick and his relationship with Nicholas.  It’s interesting how he wants to forget he even owns Nicholas.  His phrase where he says “you’ll stick with me partner” alludes to this.

The vocal piece that is played during  the middle of this episode was fantastic.  It draws in the reality Worwick saw as a child and the abuse he experienced from his father.  Their relationship also pays a heavy price on the mysterious Veronica they took care.  I have to wonder how far this 1-cour show will go in developing that.  With all the action from previous episodes it is nice to have a breather episode with Nicholas recovering from the downers Paulina shot at him.

As for Alex’s disappearance in the ending of the last episode this episode provides the backbone to Worwick becoming Alex’s saving grace.  Along with Nicholas, he’s one of her guardian angels that’s pulled her out of the hell Barry put her through.  That kiss and her attempt at giving in to old desires emphasize’s Theo’s analysis of a woman caught up in a submissive lifestyle and how she can overcome it with even the smallest bits of kindness.  A roof under her head, some medical treatment and people to converse with.

That piano piece at the end was incredible and illustrates, musically, the idea that there is some kind of hope in this rotten city.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

GANGSTA Episode 5

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Directed by  in-between animator Kaori Suzuki.  Must have gotten a promotion in the past few years because that’s all Kaori had ever been commissioned for until this episode of GANGSTA.  Most notably known for working on Matoko Shinkai’s Hoshi wo Ou Kokomo.  This was by far the best episode of GANGSTA to date.  The music pulled together the Nicholas and Doug fight nicely. The overhead shot of the twilight duel was animated by none other than Shinya Takahashi.  The same key animator of Blood-C and Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru‘s opening sequences.  Animation was directed by freelance animator and one of the founders of JAniCA, Japan Animation Creators Association.  Most of his work stems from the Lupin III series and Hajime no Ippo.  The other animation director is from Studio TRIGGER’s team Kotaro Nakamori.  He’s mostly worked on 2013’s Kill la Kill and Anime Mirai 2014’s Harmonie piece that was produced by Ultra Super Pictures.  Now onto GANGSTA.

The fight was just icing on the cake as we finally get a good view of how the Twilights are treated in Ergastulum.  The three laws separates the humans of this series [called Normals] and the Twilights as Doug decides to go after Monroe from an illegally operated union.  It’s briefly shown in a televised broadcast towards the beginning.  Genius!  As loose as the narrative has been in adapting the manga the creators took a lot of attention to tell it hearty.  I’m glad to see these laws aren’t a quick plot device.  This gives a solid introduction to the Paulklee guild and its members.

Ginger is very nervous especially when handling Nicholas.  There’s an obvious gap between them–good thing this wasn’t shown off right away until her boss Gina Paulklee arrives to swiftly assess and correct the situation between the Twilights.  Doug should be more of the wildcard as given how he’s taken out Monroe’s men–a mafia leader protected by the three laws.

This is the first time we’re seeing more strength in its female characters.  GANGSTA contains a masculine quality to it–we saw that with the sex segments in the first episode and action scenes.  However this episode lifts the lid on that perspective a little and gives some fortitude to women.  Alex has been beaten physically and psychologically by Barry Abott and this episode fuels that even further.  It shows that those earlier scenes in this show are intentional in creating lasting consequences on her personality.  She may have been freed by the two hitmen but her battle to overcome her fears trapped in her mind are far from over.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

GANGSTA Episode 4

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I am enjoying the story to GANGSTA quite a bit.  It’s vastly different than a lot of series that are airing this season in that it’s gritty by design, mature with its story and leaves a lot to the audience to speculate each week.  Talk about a cliffhanger this episode, can’t wait to see that fight between Doug and Nicholas in the next episode!  Looks as though there was an issue with the original broadcaster for this show as it’s moving their time to Sundays.

Key animator of Mushishi, Eiji Abiko directed this episode and I’m amazed at how he was able to shift between slow-paced scenes with Alex’s fears of the past and gradually discovering the Handymen’s pasts to maintaining a momentum with Worwick’s backstory in order to build up to Doug’s appearance.  I say this because this is Abiko’s first time directing an episode. Is it just me or is this animator freelance?  Artland is the production studio for Mushishi and Abiko was the animation director for the Zoku Shou and the two 1-hour specials we had last year.  On top of that he’s worked with BONES on a few Space Dandy episodes and with MAPPA on Zankyou no Terror.  Glad to see he’s gotten a promotion this year direction an episode for GANGSTA. Because this was really good! This also takes me to my next point about MANGLOBE.  They’ve kept a ton of their key animators from Ergo Proxy and Michiko e Hatchin to work on this show.  The animation was really good this time around–there are at least 5 animation directors on this!  Hiromi Okazaki, Itsuko Takeda, Noritomo, Hattori, Masaiku Tayori, and Shinya Kitamura.  All of which are lead animators at MANGLOBE–working on some of the biggest productions between 2006 and 2010!  Ergo ProxyMichiko e HatchinRistorante Paradiso and 2013’s Samurai Flamenco!

We finally get a good look at when Nicholas and Worwick were young and how they met each other.  I like how unhinged Worwick used to be–his reaction to Nicholas being deaf was fantastic! Wonderful way to build this up through Captain Chad and Cody’s interrogation on the murder cases.  Worwick’s been around Ergastulum for a long time and this episode barely touched the surface on the things he’s seen.  His connection with the prostitutes and various gangs illustrates his value to the police and Barry Monroe without shoving it down our throats with a long information dump.  Smart move on the original author, Koshke, to develop this with a quick analysis of the actual murders themselves!  I like how his innate ability to memorize  transitioned back towards his childhood and the social status his family upheld.

The adaptation doesn’t leave anything out, however, it does switch the placement of scenes around.  Doug showing up, taking out Monroe’s men is the highlight of the episode because we get a chance to see how an A tag handles his own against a group of normals and more importantly another A tag, Nicholas!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

GANGSTA Episode 3

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A-1 Pictures, MADHOUSE, MAPPA, BONES–any one of these studios could have made this series really pretty. Taking a year break benefits this show in numerous ways.  It takes a while getting used to their style and MANGLOBE pulled in a few new talented animators for this show.  From what I can tell in this episode there are a few scenes that has blocky designs and the buildings aren’t very detailed when the action hits the screen.  They’ve got a ways to go in growing as animators but as a whole for GANGSTA it pays off.  It’s good to see them working alongside key animators from Production I.G. and Nakamura Production because these new artists will be able to get inspiration from them.  A washed out look on the characters, dismal and dark backgrounds portrays Ergastulum in the best way possible.

This episode dives into Worwick’s other job–a gigolo.  The dynamic between the main cast is awesome–Nicholas is driven by killing and nothing else.  His fight with the dogtag last episode was a large indication of this.  As well as his tribal tattoo that Alex notices early on in this episode.  He’s a warrior with a very grim past that’s connected to Worwick’s family.  I’ve been reading the manga so I will avoid any future spoilers that the anime hasn’t covered yet.

Speaking of the manga what is interesting is how this adaptation has changed the placement of scenes.  Big Mama’s introduction ends up before Nicholas’ entanglement with Doctor Theo and the dogtag as well as a few other scenes.  I’m not sure why they did this because the show’s writer Shinichi Inotsume didn’t leave anything out of this.  Alex is slowly learning about Nicholas’ habits but this episode jumps into her relationship with Worwick and his lifestyle.  I like how understanding he is–taking Alex under his wing by giving her a job as Handymen’s secretary.  He really understands how much Alex had suffered by Barry and I’m glad the story hasn’t neglected how important the napkin is to her.  The trio’s close relationship is nicely woven into   Ergastulum–  there’s a lot of respect between the Handymen and Daniel Monroe, head of the Monroe family syndicate.  We’ve never seen Nicholas be so kind to anyone until now–his conversation with Monroe left quite the impact considering how amazing Kenjiro Tsuda is at pulling off a deaf character!

Tsutchie’s soundtrack came off wonderfully in this episode we’re finally hearing some main themes come across in the story!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10

GANGSTA Episode 2

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This was awesome.  All that gritty build-up of the city and it’s trio–Nicolas, Worwick and Alex pays off wonderfully in this episode.  Theo is a grim doctor definitely aware of the city’s inhabitants and its great to see it reflect his character and his calm demeanor.  He’s missing two fingers and takes care of the only innocent character we’ve seen so far, Nina.  She’s absolutely adorable and played by Aoi Yuki of Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s Kaname Madoka!  She’s voiced some of my favorite characters in the past–Gosick‘s Victorique, SHIKI‘s Sunako Kirishiki and of course Kurenai‘s Murasaki Kuhōin!  Nina is very young compared to the rest of the cast as she knows exactly what Nicolas is and I like how the roles are reversed between the two female leads of this show!  It feels as though Nina is maturely adapted to the city more than Alex has!

After being used by Barry, Alex has finally been given a second chance as Benriya’s assistant and it’s the beginning of this episode that really embellishes the finer points of how she’s learning the ropes of their killing business and Ergastulum.  It’s just the tip of the iceberg on the dogtags and what they represent–frightened by Nicolas’ strength and strong attachment to death Alex amplifies the mystery behind the dogtags quite strongly.  We are seeing just the beginning of what sort of corrupt people live in Ergastulum–famous for its prostitutes and drug smuggling that episodes that are slow with their pacing end up being really rewarding for episodes like this one with a heavy amount of action!

Tsutchie’s soundtrack really comes through by the second half–there’s a strong distinct melody playing that pays tribute to GANGSTA‘s grisly crime themes.  Tsutchie’s real name is  Shinji Tsuchida whom started out as a DJ and producer for the rock group ShakkaZombie.  Since his departure from them his work consists mainly of solo and a few collaborations works like with Forces of Nature, Fat Jon and Nujabes on the score for Samurai Champloo.  His style with this show is sublime to say the least offering a nice atmosphere to this anime’s toned down artistic choice in background designs and adult appeal towards its rugged character designs.  Not Masaaki Yuasa rugged but worn-out looking.

Would like to point out that Yasuomi Umetsu storyboarded, directed and drew all the key animation segments for GANGSTA‘s ending.  Known for creating the feature length film  for Kite as well as its series back in 1998.  Throughout his career in the anime industry, Yasuomi Umetsu is really versatile in staffing work.  Ranging from original creator to character designing, key animating and directing!  What’s strange is that he’s working on such a seinen series like GANGSTA rather than his usual ecchi productions.  That’s great and all but I’m very glad he didn’t direct this show as I’ve seen how horribly planned Wizard Barristers was back in the Winter 2014 Season.  I’ll admit his work on Kite was decent putting aside the horrible voice directing but his two original anime series Galilei Donna and following it up with Wizard Barristers were disastrous for his career.  Not to mention the latter using one of the worst studios in the business, Arms.  Perhaps he’s learning from his mistake of “don’t write and direct at the same time” method.  Some can pull that off where others cannot.  This ending on GANGSTA is probably on his top tier in collaborative works out of his entire career.  Please, please don’t let Umetsu do anything original for a while–he’s got a lot of ambition but isn’t able to put it down on pen and paper too well.  On a positive note he must be learning a lot from MANGLOBE and Ergo Proxy director Shuko Murase right now with this show.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso [91/100]

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This show is bittersweet–depicting the lives of middle school students enjoying their youth and experiencing hardships.  Noitamina picked a wonderfully written manga to adapt and the music sells this show a ton!

A-1 Pictures adapted Naoshi Arakawa’s manga faithfully.  It’s beautifully drawn with very detailed character designs by Yukio Aikei!  This is a wonderful series that ties the bonds between friends together through music and love.  Arima Kousei’s growth is one of the big highlights of Shigatsu as we see him placing fear onto himself due to his mother’s death.  The contrast that gets him out of his shell is Kaori Miyazono.  She’s free-spirited and much like his childhood friend, Tsubaki Sawabe, she’s got this drive to fix Kousei out of his slump.  The connection is that they are both musicians and this is how the romance develops between the two of them.  They’re both learning their own sounds by practicing together and discovering they’ve got strong chemistry!

Masaru Yokoyama’s soundtrack fits extremely well into this–  picking from a range of popular classical insert songs to a collection of original pieces that are just as emotionally moving as the animation and its engaging characters!  When it comes to a series about music it’s pivotal that you need sound to get this story moving and it doesn’t let go of this idea ever.  This is one series I would highly recommend to anyone that’s a fan of music or romance.  It touches on parental loss and the huge respects are paid to this theme throughout as Kousei goes on his journey discovery that in order to get over his mother’s death and realize his feelings for Kaori he must find his own way of voicing it out even if its through playing piano.

If you like Nodame Cantabile‘s focus into music than I’d say you would enjoy this series.  A lot of criticism from Shigatsu stems from its overdramatic scenes and moments where the show at times leans more on a characters’ emotions rather than the musical performances themselves.  In my opinion I find this to be a pretty big success to the series’ way of reminding us that these are middle school students and they need all the room to grow up in their own ways.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [91/100]

GANGSTA Episode 1 [Initial Impressions]

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I’m still backlogging a bunch of titles that I’ve been gradually getting through [watching] and will be getting to these throughout the following weeks, but I won’t be forgetting about the new summer season.  There are a ton of series I’m looking forward to especially this one!

This is everything I expected it to be and more.  It delivered! The manga is written by Kohske and is actually the only thing she’s ever done.  Most of her other works are one-shots that act as influential pieces in the making of Gangsta.  This.  This, right here, is a prime example of where the industry should be heading.  Hajime Isayame, the creator of Shingeki no Kyojin, has only written three titles in his repertoire, but Kyojin managed to be a huge success.  The gore (the unique narrative about Titans consuming people) isn’t something that’s been done before.  In the past decade or so, we’ve had a great many artists from Japan and South Korea come up with a number of manga that have some strikingly similar stories.  Between ‘girl with magical powers saves boy’ or vice-versa, ‘the mysterious classmate,’ ‘school setting with fantasy elements’ are a few to name.  Come to think of it, there are about five series airing this summer season that follow one, if not two, or all three of these trends.  This is probably why there’s been such a high interest in the adaptation of light novels like the Monogatari series.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed quite a few series based on light novels, Bacanno!Spice and Wolf and Gosick, but let’s see some more originality!  If the production studios want to adapt, there are the gems out there like Shino Torino’s, Ohana Hololholo–a josei series that depicts the life of a bisexual girl living with her former girlfriend, Michiru, and Michiru’s son, as well as, Kim Hyang-Min & Yang Kyung-II’s March Story.  Something this generation could learn from older mangakan and a few of the breakout-newer mangakan are defeated characters.  Shingeki has them, and Koshke’s Gangsta does a very good job at weaving them into the story.  The market in Japan isn’t very large so finding even a Western audience breaks the mold and Gangsta does just that.

It’s a mature, gritty story,about hitmen, prostitutes and thugs in the backdrop of “Ergastulum,” a fictional city.  The name derives from a Roman building that was used as a prison to chain and punish slaves and other dangerous people.

I couldn’t have asked for a better team behind the TV animation adaptation!  Manglobe is the studio working on the animation.  I can see why they took a year off–they needed it for how detailed the character designs and action sequences are!  There were a few times where characters in the background looked a bit off, but I think that’ll improve over time.  The last thing they did was back in 2013 with Samurai Flamenco, where many of the episodes had an abundance of wonky-drawn scenes that were cleaned up on the retail releases.  [I own that entire series on Blu-ray and it’s definitely a step up from the broadcast!]  Speaking of retail releases: Gangsta‘s Blu-ray Single volumes will contain English subtitles.  [I’ve already pre-ordered the first volume!]  The studio is most-known for animating Samurai ChamplooErgo Proxy and Deadman Wonderland.  It’s a shame they did all these fan-service series between 2011 and 2013 because they fell out of the industry a bit for me.  The more adult-like designs is really where they work their magic–Ergo Proxy, Samurai ChamplooMichiko e Hatchin, and now this.  It’s been a long time coming, but this studio is back and better than ever!  A number of the key animators that worked on Michiko e Hatchin worked on this series.

The mannerisms of the characters are solid–especially with Nicolas Brown’s sign language.  So much authenticity!  All wonderfully acted, while having a surprising performance out of Kenjiro Tsuda (voicing Nicolas Brown).  The scene where he is kicking the car was breathtaking!  There aren’t a lot of anime series that touch on disabilities, and deaf characters are rarely used.  The only character that I can recall that was deaf was Houichi Koisumi of Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge.  Where Nicolas lacks in hearing, he more than makes up for in  sight and lipreading, which is a fantastic way to balance out his partner.  Worwick Arcangello has this outgoing flirtatious behavior and most of his scenes are downright cool.  His chemistry with Alex Benedetto is really solid!

The pacing is very slow and benefits greatly with Ergo Proxy‘s director, Shukou Murase, behind it, plus Ristorante Paradiso‘s script writer, Shinichi Inotsume, on board!  I remember that show being very slow and took its time each episode to flesh out Nicoletta’s relationships with the Casetta dell’Orso staff.

Tsutchie’s smooth hip-hop sounds for the anime’s soundtrack illustrates how grim Gangsta will be.  Aside from this, the only other soundtracks he’s written and produced were from Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop.

This first episode really sets the stage well.  There are factions within the city and this first episode is a primer in establishing the corrupt atmosphere wonderfully.  Captain Chad of the local police working with Worwick and Nicolas behind his bosses to take down Barry Abott’s drug-dealing gang provides a very strong beginning that hooks you in!


OP: “Renegade” by Stereo Dive Foundation

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This may be the best opening to air this season.  Not every series has aired, so only time will tell–but this rocked!  The animation, the music, the color paint effects, everything came off so smoothly!  Very upbeat sound by Stereo Dive, the vocals are edgy providing justice to this show’s dark content.  Stereo Dive Foundation is a sound-making project by producer and guitarist, R・O・N, the same creator of OLDCODEX, as well as scads of other musicians.  Their first animation single was “Daisy” for 2013’s Kyoukai no Kanata.  If Namie Amuro did a song with Jason Derulo it would sound a little bit like this.  Really colorful!

ED: “Yoru no Kuni” (夜の国; Country of the Night) by Annabel with Stereo Drive Foundation

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Really, really awesome.  Annabel’s voice captures the tough life Worwick and Nicolas have lead, and the instrumentals by Stereo Drive Foundation give off what the opening sequence has–a rough and edgy atmosphere.  The visuals don’t have much movement but I feel that is its strong point.  It’s all about redemption for these two men and it’s great to see that it reflects their lives in a sort of dismal way.  The opening sequence’s pacing is a nice contrast to the driving music; this ending is also really colorful!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

PUNCHLINE [71/100]

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Having finished my classes for summer I’ve actually had more time to sit down and watch anime series I’ve neglected.  For Punchline I had seen the first few episodes and it fell off the map for me simply because series like Kekkai SensenDurararax2 Shou among a few others were grabbing my attention more.

An original anime series on the Noitamina programming block I was very eager to see this show:  MAPPA handling animation production and the script by Kyokugen Dasshutsu ONA writer Koutarou Uchikoshi gives this series extreme promise.  Plus, the story is very strange–  the world blows up if Yuuta Iridatsu gets a nosebleed from seeing panties.  I’m all for series that takes creativity to a whole other level.  If there is a series I’d recommend that had thrown in a “left-field” hook than look no further than Punchline.  It’s got a ton of FLCL spirit to it–  which makes sense considering director Yutaka Yemura first began his career as a CG artist for GAINAX.  I can clearly see some crossover influences in his works between these shows.  The characters in both are really exaggerated in the physical actions and personalities.

The amount of puns in this show are quite hilarious too!  That is if you can catch them.  The title of this show in Japanese “パンチライン” contains the word “Panchira” which literally translates to “panty-shot”.  Which is very in-line to the anime’s intentions.  Mikatan Narugino plays the love interest to Yuuta in this show and it’s funny how even her name translates to “ally for justice”.  Referring to her mahou shojo identity “Strange Juice” and the group the girls represent “Justice Punch”.  The genius inventor Meika Daihatsu is even a pun:  “dai hatsumeika” where “dai” means “great” and “hatsumeika” meaning “inventor”.   Otaku and NEET is derived from Ito Hikiotani’s name and Rabura Chichibu reflects her character.  Pun on “Chichi burabura”.  In Japanese the term “Chichi” or it’s written style “ちち” is a homophone for “father”, “milk” and “boobs” depending on the context.  As for “bura bura” it acts as an onomatopoeia for “just wandering”.  Depicts a lot of what she does in this series from all the running around and when Yuuta takes over her body to tell the others about the destruction of the world or Ito’s danger with the QMAY group.  All the girls names illustrate their own ideals and actions throughout this show that gets them closers as friends.

The first 4 episodes teaches the audience about Yuuta’s situation as a spirit and spirit cat Chiranosuke as a mentor figure in guiding him on his time-traveling journey.  The terminology in this series rocks because a lot of it is well-timed jokes that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.  Chiranosuke is a pervert so the creators decide to nonchalantly put in cats having sex with each other on a computer he’s looking at.  The transitions there are fantastic!  The slapstick comedy between Rabura’s psychic powers and Mikatan’s Strange Juice transformation sequences are highly energized and are quite refreshing compared to some of the calmer series of the season.

When Punchline does get serious though is where it actually shines.  Remove all the supernatural spirit stuff, sex jokes, time-traveling and you’ve got a couple of high-school students living together in the Korai House dealing with separation issues from childhood, neglect from parents and experimentations that separate them.

The main problem of Punchline is attributed to too much in too little time.  With 1-cour only to deal with the narrative switches throughout episodes as Yuuta is time traveling to different days with the Christmas Party being the constant unknown mystery factor as the key to Yuuta saving Ito from death as well as Mikatan.  This series is a definite re-watch in order to catch a lot of what’s going on between the QMay group’s infiltration of Korai and exactly what days these situations happen on.  Switching bodies at childhood is certainly a new approach but I feel it would have worked if this was 2-cour and the twist isn’t a rushed and cheap attempt at establishing Yuuta as the sacrificial (turns out to be a girl) in saving the people she loves.

Have to admit Marina Inoue did a fantastic job of masking Yuuta as a boy.

After a long absence from the anime soundtrack world, Vampire Hunter D composer Tetsuya Komuro returns to compose and produce Punchline‘s score!  His last work was on 2005’s Zoids:Fuzors by Tokyo Kids Animation Studio.  He’s well-known for bringing the dance genre to Japanese music and I can see some of that style in this show.  His strength however, lies as a producer signing on popular artists Namie Amuro, Ayumi Hamasaki, Ami Suzuki and many others even internationally like the Backstreet Boys within the pop scene around the 90’s.  Towards the beginning and in a few of the action sequences we get a lot of dubstep and it’s actually pretty decent.  You can tell the production of it is really high and it has a very deep bass sound.  The show has a strong bond with music and Mikatan’s pop-idol songs are key to this.  There are a few really funny drunk karaoke party scenes with some horrible singing!

Animation Studio MAPPA has quite a bit under its belt now.  Sakamichi no Apollon. Zankyou no Terror. Garo Honoo no Kokuin and now Punchline.  Their upcoming work on Ushio to Tora looks like it’ll be animated nicely but those character designs suck.  As for Punchline, it’s one of the most detailed in animation of the season.  This is where FLCL‘s influence comes in–  Yuuta flying through rooms trying to avoid panties, Rabura busting into a room and her wild psychic situations and the fight scenes are tightly animated!  The fluid style is pretty to look at the episodes aren’t as detailed as shows like Kekkai Sensen in terms of conceptual design on its backgrounds and characters.


OP:  “PUNCH LINE!” by Shokotan ♥ Denpagumi (Shoko Nakagawa x Dengapumi.INC)

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Such a strange opening. It reminds me of how quirky Hozuki no Reitetsu had been in integrating its cast to the song.  The character movements are edited well into the song but the transitions from scene to scene are a bit off.  I like how this basically tells Yuuta’s journey from each room discovering each girls’ panties and what happens to him if he does.  The band Dengapumi is a female Japanese idol group that are all former otaku and cosplayers that perform the instrumentals and backup to Nakagawa’s lead vocals.  It’s a fun and crazy song about panties that reflects this series a ton.  Generic in the style but its delivery is nice.

ED: “Mitsu Mitsu Mitsu” (蜜蜜蜜) by Ayumikurikamaki

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Great ending.  Another JPOP idol group that formed in 2012.  The name is derived from the original members’ names.  Known for their bear costumes on stage (they probably should have done a Yuri Kuma Arashi insert song haha) that change according to the season.  The song itself just like the opening is typical with a steady drum beat and strong rock guitar riffs but the vocals are great because they do a wonderful job of illustrating the fun these girls have in the Korai House.  As for the animation it’s awesome–  the characters are drawn in a kawaii style  mixed with this pastel matted background design.  The director and animator on this is Wataru Uekusa.

This is the first time he’s animated and worked on a full-fledge series before as most of his work are from music videos.  Including Yasashii March: The Tender March for Soutasei Riron’s song “Miss Parallel World”, fake!fake! for the song “fake!fake!” by A Crow is White and Mukougaoka Chisato wa Tada Mitsumeteita no Datta.  Curious by this style:  I could see him working with Masaaki Yuasa sometime in the future.  Uekusa gives off a visually smooth and bright tone that contains a wild trip spiraling out of control.

Here’s the music video of Mikougaoka Chisato:

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This one is fake!fake!—  its visually stunning and has some of smoothest animation I’ve ever seen in a music video!  Reminds me of Kaiba.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 71/100

Duarara!x2 Shou [88/100]

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After a five year gap between this season and the original a lot of the charm that made Durarara!! such a success remains the same.  It follows Ryogo Narita’s light novels pretty closely–  there’s the kidnappings, the exaggerated Shizuo’s strength putting fear in Ikebukuro’s criminals and centers on the intertwining lives of its citizens.  It’s a series that neatly rolls so many genres seamlessly together from action to comedy to horror and even the subdued romance between Celty and Shinra plus Anri and Ryuugamine.

I believe where X2Shou outshines the first season is how closely connected the new cast is with the old.  The Russians are back and have the addition of Egor, Varona and Sloan providing a much needed backstory to their part in Ikebukuro; something that the first season needed a lot more of.  The singer Ruri was a brief mention in the beginning of the first season that it was great to see that even she has her strange secrets:  the identity of Hollywood.

My one large complaint is Studio Shuka’s animation.  Rather than sticking with Brains Base the creators went with a company that may have done a decent job in background designs the character’s facial expressions are a bit distorted at times.  There were a few times where the animation hadn’t been as fluid as the original.  For the show it doesn’t help in keeping up with the same dark artistic integrity it once had but from an anime industry perspective its brilliant.  They’ve established a new studio using a former producer of the classic Durarara!! [which is why we see tons of familiar staff working on these new seasons]  to helm the overall animation production for x2Shoux2Ten and x2Ketsu.  Smart move.  I’d really like to see this done on shonen series like BLEACH or Kyoukai no Rinne.  Rumiko Takahashi is known for doing long series so it’d be a good move to do what Studio Shuka did and follow their influence.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [88/100]

Duarara!x2 Shou Episode 12 [END]

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Noboru Takagi is the series writer for this season and here is where an hour-long special would have worked extremely well by adding on to the conclusion of this.  I was pretty unimpressed by this episode.  However the highlight is that this entire episode was animated extremely well.  Studio Shuka’s budget was used quite a bit on this finale–  those fights were drawn with a strong attention to detail and had some nice fluid animation to back it up.  Especially when Shizuo is dodging Varona’s bullets!

Shizuo’s fight against Varona is the real highlight that closes out this season nicely just in time for xTen.  The motorcycle that is hurled into the air towards the crowd of Dollars and Saitama gangs fighting each other was a great way to introduced Shizuo the final episode.  For the most part he cleans up house between the gangs but one part that doesn’t make much sense is how Varona can hold her own against Shizuo but can’t win against the Awakusa group.  Sloan and her get taken out leaving quite the cliffhanger.  It was a good way to show off how powerful the Awakusa group but don’t use the incredibly powerful Varona to achieve this!  Doesn’t make much sense after she was able to survive the encounter against Shizuo!

On top of that we get another narrative thread–  Yodogiri Jinnai shows back up and decides to kill Izaya for meddling into his business.  Which given that the teaser is already out we see he’s very much alive.  As for Ryuugamine he’s showing how weak he is by accepting Aoba’s agreement on being the leader of the Blue Squares.  Another reason why this episode should have been an hour-long special.  Felt really rushed.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 5/10