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Monthly Archives: January 2011

So, here we are, 4 or so episodes into the winter season. What caught my eye this season? Well, let me tell you, the real winner is STILL:

Bakuman: A+

Bakuman is still everything that I want out of it in its second season. Perhaps it has even become more! That last episode I watched ended with one of those “OH SHI- I feel a dynamic shifting!” sort of moments. I’m really glad to see TakaxMiyo getting some more play in the show and I will happily watch it until the last episode at this rate. Great stuff. But you aren’t here to find out about Bakuman, you are here to hear my opinion on the new stuffs! Let me let you in on my experiences.

Kore wa Zombie desu ka?: B

That translates out into “Is this a Zombie?” This anime is a pretty strong B-lister. It is a sort of gag-comedy based harem anime. Your main character was killed by a serial murderer and raised as a zombie. He retains his personality and, in fact, actually seems to have only benefited from the process, so long as he stays out of prolonged exposure to sunlight. You get a group of other weird girls that pop up, a Magical Girl, a Necromancer, a Vampire Ninja… it is entertaining enough… but it isn’t going to be a classic anytime soon. I will not twist your arm to make you watch this one, but it hasn’t been bad for me so far.

Onii-chan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakra ne!!: A

This one is a mouthful and it comes out to something alone the lines of “I don’t love my brother at all!!” This is the type of ecchi I REALLY enjoy. The sort that is well aware of the tropes of its own genre and knows where to poke fun. The main character is a younger sister who has a thing for her big brother. She is slowly trying to lure him into a forbidden romance, but then she finds out that they aren’t actually blood relatives. This actually REALLY depresses her for a bit, because suddenly the awesome taboo is lost… but then she realizes that their love might have a future now! Ah, but a rival appears! I’ve been enjoying this one a lot and, especially if you’ve watched a lot of this sort of anime, I recommend it heartily.

Wolverine: B+/A

Short in America, big in Japan. Wolverine isn’t pulling any punches here. AIM guys get stabbed bloodily… our boy does his classic heal nonsense… he falls in love again, because we know he has a thing for Japanese women… it is pretty much what you would expect from a Wolverine anime. That is a good thing! If you watched Iron Man, this is pretty much the same sort of deal… I’m actually really impressed, though, with just how well Wolverine works as an anime protagonist… I mean the guy has always screamed red-blooded blade-wielding protagonist. Still, we can never have enough Wolverine… I mean being on 3 super hero teams and running 2 or 3 solo plots is barely enough for a guy like him. It is a B+ for folk who generally enjoy Wolverine and a decent A for people who can name at least 3 superhero teams that Wolverine has been on and 2 women he has been in love with.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica: A+

I am REALLY enjoying this one. Studio Shaft has done it again. I talked about this one in another rant, so not too much to add here. It is just really interesting watching this one and seeing just how deep they can make the magical girl genre go! There are some serious dyed-in-the-wool fans that tell me that Magical Lyrical Nanoha can do deep… but I tried Nanoha… and it just didn’t catch me. This one had me going “Wow, this is different and interesting” by the first episode. By the third episode I knew that this was a winner that I could gladly watch until the series ended. Great stuff here.

Those are the ones from the new season that I’ve had time to watch. I’ve actually been doing schoolwork this semester, which cuts down on my general anime-watching time a bit. If there is another new release you love, let me know. I’ll give it a watch and toss it up here.

Oh, and, as always, One Piece is S ranked.

It is one bad mother.

So, as you already know, I was a big fan of GONZO for quite some time. Well, now that I find myself without a studio to fanboy over, I’m thinking of getting a new “Property of Studio Shaft” tattoo. The anime they produce is quirky, to say the least… yet, as I look through the list of Shaft anime, I keep finding Shaft works that I didn’t even know were Shaft! Things that I had enjoyed years ago before I even knew of Shaft! Furthermore, of the anime I’m currently watching, several of them are Shaft!

I watched He is My Master, Pani Poni Dash and Negima!? years ago and enjoyed each of them. I didn’t think to look into their makers though… so the first Shaft anime that really sticks to me as a shaft anime is Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei.

That is Shaft-quality quirky anime right there.

Zetsubou-sensei put into my head the basic things that I look for in Shaft anime. I want a non-traditional story, unexpected twists, interesting artistic effects and the ability to blur the line between comedy and tragedy. Zetsubou-sensei marked the point at which I began looking at Shaft as an entity… an extremely quirky entity. I’ve tried out several Shaft series since, and I haven’t been disappointed… for the most part. For instance, one of my favorite romance anime is Shaft.

ef: a fairy tale of the two

Oh my goodness, ef was good. The series is composed of two seasons, ef: a tale of memories and ef: a tale of melodies… but the seasons are separate stories, tied together through personal connections of the characters. It was some really good Shaft stuff. There were amazing visual effects that tried to convey a deeper mood… some of those visual effects were extremely powerful and moving. The funny thing is that I didn’t realize it was Shaft until I saw those bold artistic choices.

Similarly, Bakemonogatari was an amazingly visual anime. There were a lot of subtle effects there… and a lot of not-so-subtle effects… but either way, it was very well done and I can’t wait for them to eventually get around to Kizumonogatari. Something about the way that Shaft anime can highlight the best and worst in their characters through those subtle artistic choices… it really gets to me. The little flashes. The odd angles. The images tossed out there… they engage your mind on multiple levels and I love it.

Dance in the Vampire Bund was a real winner. It treated vampires with the level of respect and sophistication that some vampire fiction doesn’t seem to these days… and yet the vampires were still human characters. They were at once human and monster. The anime switched seamlessly back and forth between innocent and happy and dark and sanguine. It was an anime that dealt properly with vampires and Shaft did a wonderful job with it. There was one extremely powerful scene fairly early on in the series where an anti-vampire person, who had been sort of portrayed as racially insensitive, gets her worst fears realized. You get to watch her being attacked by vampires, exactly as she feared. It is practically a rape scene… and it was masterfully done.

Arakawa Under the Bridge is a LOT lighter than Dance in the Vampire Bund. This one is a Shaft-style comedy. Beautifully random with just a dash of serious romance… it is an enjoyable series to watch and I heartily recommend it. One thing I especially like about it is the level of the humor. You can show this one to your mom without it getting awkward. There aren’t any of the jokes that make people think we are terrible sexual deviants… just the sort of jokes that make people think we are strange humor deviants… Oh well, pick your battles. Everyone loves a man in a kappa costume.

But this season Shaft made a magical girl anime. I was skeptical at first. It looked pretty by-the-book. I mean, you have the cheery but kinda useless main girl… she meets magical critter… magical critter tells her she can become a magical girl… it all seemed sort of standard… but then I actually WATCHED it. First episode, first encounter with the evil of the series, the good old Shaft artistic sense kicked in. The badguys have an entirely different art style. It is surreal to watch, but it adds to the level of unreality, when you think of it in terms of the characters. These are not beings of their comprehension. These are strange twisted mockeries of the evils that dwell in men’s minds!

Another interesting point about this one is that they clarified the entire Magical Critter + Girl = Powers bit. There is motivation there. There is motivation for the critter to gain powers, there is motivation for the girl to receive powers, there is motivation for the girl to exercise received powers… the entire process feels understandable, if not natural. I especially like the focus on the main character’s family and home life. It does my heart good to see that they aren’t all orphans. The REAL zinger hits at the end of episode 3. That is the episode that solidified this in my mind as “not just another magical girl anime”. Puella is actually, surprisingly, the anime of this season that I’m most interested in. It is certainly worth watching and I would encourage you to pick it up.

 


Occasionally, something comes around that you have to take a good hard look at to fully understand it. This isn’t your average anime. This is Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt. This feels like something deeper. This feels like a satire. This feels like a package wrapped up in brown paper and addressed to Americans. The tag reads “Enclosed: One Mirror.”

It takes place in Daten City… America, Japan, who cares.

The first thing that struck me about Panty and Stocking was the sheer weight of American pop culture references! Almost every episode is an allusion to an American movie, High School Nudical? Chuck to the Future? Furthermore, almost every episode dealt with some sort of American stereotype, or contained some sort of running joke that was a reference. I just about lost it when I saw Ren and Stimpy in there. Sex and the Daten City was a particularly telling episode about the cult of personality in America and how nonsensically obsessed we are with our celebrities.

There was one episode in particular that made me think this anime wants its audience to dig a little deeper… it was the one where they swung from Daten City to the neighboring Little Tokyo, a glum city where glum people seek their glum happiness… and live a glum life. Suddenly the art style changed. Everyone was drawn in an old low-budget anime style… and with that change, we weren’t talking about Americans anymore. That episode was about a Japanese salary-man and how absolutely terrible his life is. That episode was trying to say something about that sort of life… and that episode alone would be enough cause for an American to look closer at all the American-style episodes.

Don’t let your eyes fool you. This is the same anime.

The anime seems to be trying to deliver a message. If I had to wager a guess, it would be about breaking free from the shackles of conventional thought… perhaps. Honestly, I can’t say with 100% authority… I’m not sure anyone could. Here. Feel free to try. I will link below a video. This is from episode 10, a music video. Contained within, there are so many musical references that I am not qualified enough to point them all out. Yet, they are all iconic enough that I recognize them as references! That is the general feeling of the entire series. Even if you don’t understand the specific references, you understand that there is something deeper there. There is some sort of greater meaning lurking just beyond the surface… or maybe not. Maybe it is just another show about sex and violence… maybe they all are.