Tag Archives: Summer 2015 Season

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!


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!


Akagami no Shirayukihime Episode 1 [Initial Impressions]

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Shirayuki is a beautiful girl working as a medicine woman with red hair, a color that is considered very rare. When she is proposed and chased after by the prince of her country, she cuts her hair and runs away, only to meet Zen, the prince of a neighboring country. Finding respect for the young man, she decides to serve at his side as his court doctor. ~ANN

If I had to describe my initial thoughts on this episode in one word I’d have to say I was charmed.  It’s about time that we see more light-hearted shojo series!  Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii last year was a very solid story about an arranged marriage between a princess and a Prince both from very different kingdoms and traditions.  Akagami is a Japanese shojo manga by Sorata Akizuki.  She’s fairly new to the business starting out in the early 2000’s with a collection of short stories and one-shots including Akagami.  This is her breakout hit as it is still ongoing with around 66 chapters out so far.  More than enough for three seasons worth of material!

The story of Akagami is a take on Snow White.  I grew up on Disney films (one of my favorites being Lion King) and like many children I found the magic of it all very fascinating.  The romance were always uplifting, inspirational where these stories always had a lesson or two to teach.  Contrary to a lot of belief regarding the classic tale of Snow White it is not a creation of Disney but a Brother’s Grimm fairytale based loosely on the life of 16-year old Margaretha of Waldeck.  Waldeck was threatened by her stepmother and poisoned by Spanish authorities because they saw the inevitable marriage between Waldeck and the Prince.  The history behind the story of Snow White is very dark and over time has received many interpretations and Akagami chooses the Disney path with this anime series.  A nudge to Disney’s vision with many changes that involve more of an Eastern style.

Shirayuki is known as the beautiful girl with red hair all across the country and is chased after by Prince Raji.  Raji is the stereotypical Disney villain–he’s made out to be this beautiful person on the outside and sinister on the inside.  He desires Shirayuki because of her rare red hair and Zen says it best when he describes Prince Raji as when he wants something he already counts it as his.  At first I thought Zen would be the representation of the well-known dwarf characters that are features so heavily in Disney’s version however this is not the case.  He is Shirayuki’s love interest.  The interactions between the two of them are fantastic–quick conversations that spark right after Shirayuki proves she’s an herbalist by injuring her own arm!  I really like how their relationship tosses most romance comedy series out the window as Zen plays off as in-between from dark prince and knight and shining armor.  He’s charistmatic, a genuinely nice guy and acts very realistic especially in the second half of this episode after he’s taken a bite of the apple and realizes it  is poisoned.  He’s a great balance to Shirayuki.

She’s not stubborn nor does she have a ditsy personality.  She’s strong-willed, is able to hold her own when she’s in trouble which is a nice step away from the damsel-in-distress that many shojo series hold on to.  This show does dive into that form quite a bit but it quickly saves itself from being too generic by giving her realistic courage.  A very refreshing female protagonist!  If this were any other kind of series I’d say this doesn’t work at all but since this handles classical storytelling it excels in re-introducing us the magical story with the author Akizuki’s nods to Snow White.  The poisonous apple, mirror-mirror on the wall are but a few that were mentioned in this episode!

The production itself is amazing.  Stellar visuals between wonderfully drawn backgrounds by three animators in the industry from animation company Studio Easter.  The studio that did the background designs for 2011’s horror series, Another.  Akiko Manabe, Yoko Atsumi and Yoko Kamiyama are all under the cooperation of Akagami‘s art director and another employee of Studio Easter, Erika Okazaki.  What sort of budget did BONES have for this particular episode?  This was stunning in the design department!

So far, Akagami is my favorite introductory episode to air this season–it reigns in so much talent from Sword of the StrangerZetsuen no Tempest and the original Full Metal Alchemist series director Masahiro Ando to Michiru Oshima’s emotionally moving classical score in an attempt to breathe life into the popular shojo manga!  Oshima’s soundtrack for Akagami is the best this season has to offer.  I really enjoyed Tsutchie’s work on GANGSTA but this was incredibly moving and lifted each scene to great heights!

Would also like to point out the pun in Shirayuki’s name.  Shira’s  literal translation is “white” and the second half of her name “yuki” means “snow”.

OP: “Yasashii Kibō” (やさしい希望;Gentle Hope) by Saori Hayami

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This is the official opening to the show and acts as the ending for this first episode. I really like the visuals including its transitions on this.  Overseen and storyboarded by series’ director Masahiro Ando the animation is fluid and gives us a good view of its main cast!  The art is headed by Ouran Highschool Host Club‘s character designer Kumiko Takahashi.  Wonderfully drawn with tons of talented key animators that include Hiroki Harada (Sasami-san@Garanbarai‘s character designer), Ayaka Hata, Takahiro Kimura, and Masahiro Sato!  However, I feel the instrumentals in the music is way too fluffy for this series’ soundtrack.  It works in bringing the world of Japanese anime to the screen of a classic story but doesn’t have that charm the overall score has.   Perhaps Michiru Oshima should have written the score to this because Saori Hayami overwhelms the song!  I think this would have been awesome to hear Oshima’s style with a set of chorus vocals in the background!  I wonder if Kokia could do a light-hearted Oshima score?  Maybe this will grow on me over time.


Rokka no Yūsha Episode 1 [Initial Impressions]

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When the Majin awoke from the depths of darkness, the deity of fate chose six heroes and bequeathed them with the power to save the world. Adlet, a boy who proclaims himself the strongest on Earth, has been selected among the Rokka no Yuusha (Heroes of the Six Flowers), and he goes to the rendezvous point — but seven have gathered there. The heroes suspect that someone among the seven is the enemy, and the initial suspicion falls on Adlet. ~taken from ANN

Rokka is from the Tatakau Shisho author Ishio Yamagata whose one of the more reliable fantasy writers because he’s able to write very engrossing characters you learn to love and hate.  The staff on this animated work looks really promising!  The director, Takeo Takahashi of Spice & Wolf fame handles this first episode quite nicely.  I know he’s more than capable of handling adapting from a light novel.  A lot of shows tend to pull an information dump for the sake of clearing the audience of any confusion, this show isn’t any different in that it has content that is very solid.  Rokka touches on the history of the Six Braves and the really intriguing history behind the Saints that are chosen, the power behind them and their failures 300 and 700 years ago.  This first episode succeeds in establishing a backstory by building up a wonderful setting without tossing its characters for the sake of screen-time!  There’s so much creativity in the history behind the Six Braves that I feel like I could see more than 1-cour (12 episodes)!

Adlet Mayer considers himself the strongest man in the world and those fights during the ceremony that visually declare his determination to become one of the Six Braves establishes this extremely well!  Such fluid animation!  I’m impressed because this comes from the animation studio Passione that gave us Rail Wars! last year–not a series for me that was memorable.  Lack of any coherent story that focused heavily on fan service.  Passione was started in 2012 and I feel a fantasy show is right up their alley–given how pretty most of this first episode was.  I feel that we’ve got a strong contender for anime of the season with Rokka.  The story packs a punch and the animation justifies this in a very beautiful way.

I’m in love with the soundtrack.  It’s done by one of the best classical anime composers of the past five years–Michiru Oshima.  She did Zetsuen no Tempest back in 2012 (which was her last full-fledged work on a television series and the more recent feature film Patema Inverted.  I ended up screening that a few months ago at my anime club and had such positive feedback from my friends about it.  This season we’ve got something special–she’s working on Rokka and Akagami no Shirayukihime.  Two series in one season!  It’s strange but makes these two shows extremely captivating to watch!

OP: “Cry for the Truth” by Michi

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Very upbeat JPOP song.  Michi’s vocals aren’t toned down and not as heavy as I would have expected.  The instrumentals though I feel are a bit too rocky–reminds me of Sword Art Online‘s opening sequences.  I’m on the fence with this one because the visuals are beautifully animated and the transitions come off smoothly.

ED: “Secret Sky” by Michi

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Fantastic!  The classical style that sounds very Celtic in the instrumentals captures the fantasy genre really well!  Really like Michi’s vocals–she sounds enchanting in this ending! The visuals give a very painted look to the characters!  Wonderful work on this one.


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.


GATE: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri Episode 1 [Initial Impressions]

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This has been done to death.  A fantasy series that forces an otaku to encounter the very harem he’s always wanted.  How many series are following the harem story model this season?  Monster Musume, Jitsu wa Watashi wa, Kuusen Madoushi Kouhosei no KyoukanTo Love-ru Darkness 2ndFate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya 2wei Herz.  To many this season and some of which will be longer than 1-cour, unfortunately.

Modern day Ginza, Tokyo experiences a mysterious portal that sends out monsters and soldiers wreaking havoc on the city.  Youji Itami a 33-year old otaku suddenly becomes a JSDF officer out of his heroic efforts in rescuing many Ginza citizens from the terrorizing fantasy world.

This is a wonderful example of how not to write a first episode.  It doesn’t jump around in its content but focuses on Itami’s reliable yet ridiculous success in video-games to win at real life scenarios.  The military appoints him to lead the army into the gateway and travel through the mysterious fantasy world all in one episode.  Way too light-hearted for a series that dabbles in a crossover sci-fi fantasy war.  What worries me is that the series writer Tatsuhiko Urahata is also working on Rokka I really hope this show doesn’t take precedence over that one.  That anime has so much more potential than this junk.

Strange that Urahata is writing this adaptation because he had some really strong works between the early and mid-2000’s with Monster and NANA.  In recent years he’s done some pretty stale series that have fallen short [thinking of Black Bullet].  He’s got good ideas and a solid flow of telling a story it’s a shame to see him craft this together.  I’d really like to see this writer make a comeback with an original anime alongside Ryota Yamaguchi so he can really learn how to write a fantasy series if that’s what he wants to do with this show.

This is probably one of the worst series Yoshiaki Fujisawa could have ever composed music for.  His best work comes from Uchōten Kazoku!  This was just plain bad!

Director Takahiko Kyogoku should stick with idol series not action shows.

The company that produces this is GENCO with A-1 Pictures in charge of animation production.  GENCO should have presented Yanai Takumi’s novel Hyoufuu no Kolkka: Yuki no Yousei to Shiroi Shinigami instead of this manga.  At least that one’s finished publishing and GATE is still ongoing.  They should have gotten TROYCA to do the CG designs with this episode don’t let a studio that’s really solid in character art that’s never done a lot of CG animation before handle all of it.

OP: “GATE ~Sore wa Akatsuki no Yō ni” (GATE~それは暁のように~) by Kishida Kyōdan & the Akeboshi Rockets

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Remember Highschool of the Dead‘s opening well this is by the same performers.  Akeboshi Rockets usually do hard rock but this is really J-POP boring.  It’s light-hearted just like the series is and the visuals aren’t that impressive.  It puts a large emphasis on both timelines being in the same world.  For some reason I’m reminded of Argevollen with the montage of soldiers.

ED: “Prism Communicate” (ぷりずむコミュニケート) by Nao Tōyama & Risa Taneda

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Ok the text wavering is about the only neat thing about this opening.  Seeing a military vehicle driving through the city shimmering with various colored petals around it is really lame.  Who in the heck directed this because the CG is awful.  The song is generic duo J-POP with a electronic drum beat that doesn’t really match the song at all.  Again, really bad.

I won’t be covering this show.


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!