January 01, 2004

.hack//SIGN Episode 5



Ugh, right after the horrible Engrish of the opening theme, we go right into another terribly Engrishy song.

The visual design of the show is really beginning to drain on me. Sometimes it looks cool, but then sometimes it just looks stupid. For example, I hate Subaru's wings. Whenever Tsukasa summons his guardian, I want to laugh at how absurd it looks. Seriously, how could they not come up with a better visual design than a huge balloon? Another example are swords in the show. They generally look weird, ranging from menacing and sleek to looking like a plastic toy.

While the music is very good, the show's reliance on it makes its utilization very unsubtle. The soundtrack cuts from track to track without much connection, which makes it sometimes feel like you're just listening to a CD, and it's going from track to track. There aren't many mellow background tunes, so it's all in your face.

Things actually happen in this episode plotwise, though, which is a refreshing change. The Crimson Knights have a plan for catching Tsukasa and his Guardian, and we get some action, even if a huge bubble shooting at armored knights isn't exactly visually compelling. We've finally gone from a very flat story to some buildup in this segment, so hopefully we'll get further development in the next episode.

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 08:50 PM | Comments (5)

Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien Episode 08

Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien

This episode starts with something that I can't decide if I absolutely hate, or just find it somewhat annoying. Basically, it's when a character hum's the theme song (or an important tune) from the anime. This happens in other mediums too, and if there's no in-story reason they'd know this tune, it just seems a little gimmicky to me.

It is so painful trying to watch Mitsuki constantly feel the need to create conversation to break Narumi out of his thoughts (which are most likely focused on Haruka). Though, I don't feel too much sympathy for her, because of her annoying passive-aggressiveness. Instead of confronting Takayuki about Haruka, she goes to visit Haruka herself, which more or less leads to her finding out about how much of an "act" Narumi has been putting on. Learning this, Mitsuki resorts to the only thing she has that Takayuki seems to be interested in: sex. Apparently, this act gives her the courage to finally confront Takayuki, so some good comes of it.

So, while Mitsuki is becoming a more sympathetic character (the backbone from her youth seems to have returned!), Takayuki is becoming more and more annoying. He acts like a child about his relationship problems, and when Mitsuki finally tries to really talk to him about it, his response is to hang up on her, then go visit Haruka.

It seems Takayuki is just hooked on what he sees as the ideal life. Haruka is too much of that stereotypical subservient girl that she will always say what Takayuki wants to hear, unlike Mitsuki, who is more of a three-dimensional person. Being with Haruka is what he had before the accident, and that's where he really wants to be, a fantasy without troubles. To top it off, it seems that Takayuki has decided that he wants Haruka, but doesn't want to break it off with Mitsuki.

To summarize: Mitsuki's stock goes up, Takayuki's goes down, and Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien goes up.

Rating: A

Posted by Kei at 10:49 PM | Comments (2)

January 03, 2004

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 10

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Thief Psiren"

Another seemingly inconsequential episode of Fullmetal Alchemist. That isn't too surprising, as this show is slotted for fifty-two installments, so we can expect more than a little filler. (Of course, if Psiren makes a reappearance in a later episode, it'll give this one a little more weight.)

In this episode, Ed and Al are mistaken for criminals (again) and eventually end up helping the incompetent local authorities in catching the real alchemy-using criminal. Throw in a surprise that isn't a surprise at all (something that is beginning to seem like a hallmark of this show), and Ed being offended at people calling him short, and you've got your standard issue episode of the show.

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 01:20 PM | Comments (0)

Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien Episode 09

Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien

I don't particularly sympathize or feel sorry for Mitsuki, but it sure is painful to watch her try to make conversation with the sulking Takayuki.

This episode goes by pretty fast, as we see Takayuki leaning more and more towards Haruka, leaving Mitsuki to wallow in her own self pity. Not that it's really all her fault, Takayuki's immature approach to the situation is annoying, as well. The next episode should be interesting, with Mitsuki getting drunk with Shinji and Takayuki bringing the children's book to Haruka. Hopefully, the resolution of those two scenes will be good.

Also, it seems Haruka is even more aware (or at least suspicious) that she may have been in a coma for longer than just a few days.

Rating: A

Posted by Kei at 05:14 PM | Comments (0)

Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien Episode 10

Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien

Story's definitely moving along faster now, with all the characters spiraling down to their lowest points since Haruka's accident. Haruka has obviously clued into the fact that people haven't been honest with her about how long she's been out, and this episode features the confrontation.

Akane and Takayuki are wrapped up in this problem, while Mitsuki is dealing with her relationship problems in a rather unhealthy way. All the characters at this point are really wishing they were back where they were three years ago (except for maybe Haruka, who doesn't know yet). Mitsuki reminisces about her swimming days, and Akane wonders how life would be better had nothing happened. Even Shinji seems somewhat involved in Mitsuki's relationship troubles, as peripheral as he has been to the story up to this point.

Rating: A

Posted by Kei at 08:09 PM | Comments (0)

Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien Episode 11

Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien

This episode deals with the aftermath of the revelation to Haruka that she has been in a coma longer than they told her.

Inevitably, if Mitsuki's got problems, sex will solve them! By the way, way to go Shinji! Certainly the best thing you could have done to help Mitsuki in her time of need.

It's been a while since I have been as riveted to a series as the last few episodes of Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien. The twenty or so minutes seem to go by in a flash, with more and more (depressing) plot twists, with these ultimately very pathetic people. Almost every major character in this show suffers from not saying what's on their mind. If they would all just vocalize there problems to each other, they wouldn't be in as dire straits as they find themselves in.

There is one particularly good moment in this episode, where Mituski, on the verge of tears, asks Shinji why he didn't stop. And Shinji was the only one out of the four who seemed to be doing okay.

Rating: A

Posted by Kei at 08:36 PM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2004

Planetes Episode 1


"Outside the Atmosphere"

After watching so many fanciful science fiction anime series, it felt pretty unreal to watch Planetes, which takes place in a very traditional SF universe (with Japanese business life thrown on top). It's something like a more technologically realized version of 2001.

The quality of the animation is not top notch, but it gets by well. The character designs (so far) have all been pretty off the wall, with only the two main characters looking more like your standard issue person.

The plot revolves around a group of people whose job is to collect space debris (junk from dead satellites, used parts from space shuttles, etc.), to keep the space around earth safe for space travel. So far, no aliens, civil wars or mechs, so it remains to be seen if this is a show about normal people who live in space, or if some larger story arc will emerge in the future.

All in all, it was quite enjoyable, and refreshing, to have this sort of science fiction setting for an anime. Though most of the characters barely featured into the first episode, it seems like they have a wide and varied cast to explore in the coming installments.

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 01:39 PM | Comments (1)

Full Metal Panic! Episode 19

Full Metal Panic!

"Engaging Six and Seven"

The CG submarine is looking worse and worse as this series goes on, but I think that might have something to do with the fact that it is being used in more scenes, doing different things.

New opening and closing credits in this episode, though it's nothing really to write home about. Just different collages of pictures and scenes.

In this episode we get to flashback to a topic that didn't occur to me to explore. While the ladies of Full Metal Panic! lounge in the women's bath on the submarine, Mao tells the story of how Sousuke and Kurz went from rookies to full-fledged members of Mithril. Apparently, they were both toiling in obscurity because they refused to acknowledge their actual skills (Sousuke purposefully getting mediocre scores, and Kurz lying about his shooting ability). I suppose that's kind of interesting, but it's never really explained why they did that (after all, who would want to stay in training?).

With only a few more episodes left in the show, I think that this (and the previous episode) are the calm before the storm, a last chance for some humor and silliness before we go into a serious mission.

A fun (slightly fanservice-laden), filler episode. It was supposed to flesh out Sousuke and Kurz's characters, but doesn't really do all that much. (We already knew that Kurz was a womanizer and most of the series has been fleshing out Sousuke's character.)

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 06:30 PM | Comments (0)

Lunar Legend Tsukihime Episode 06

Lunar Legend Tsukihime

"White Dream"

Shingetsutan Tsukihime moves very deliberately from one scene to the next, with few superfluous settings or lines of dialogue. I have grown to enjoy the slower pacing of the show, though I have to admit it has taken some time. There is a definite feeling of weight with each line the various characters deliver. Overall, a feeling of sadness, loss and nostalgia permeates the show, and this feeling is brought to life exceptionally well.

This weight gives a realistic dimension to the burgeoning relationship between the two main characters, which is a feat, when you consider the fantastical nature of the plot.

At first I believed that this show would deal primarily with the vampire slaying plots, but it seems that this is more of a character-driven show, which is actually much more to my tastes. There is little of your usual anime silliness present, which is also a big plus (rare as it is for an anime series to be able to keep a consistent sense of mood).

I'm sold on this show now, and am looking forward to seeing where our main characters' relationship leads.

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2004

Full Metal Panic! Episode 20

Full Metal Panic!

"Venom's Flame"

And here we go into the action! Okay, it's a little understated in this episode, actually. There's some action, but Mithril's AS's take care of business so quickly it's kind of anticlimactic (guess those new Russian AS's weren't that big of a deal after all). It does still bother me, though, that the AS's seem to have such widely varying degrees of manuverability. In one scene, we hear them plodding along, ungainly, and in the next, they're defying the laws of physics by sliding around, running, diving, etc. Ah, the realities that are mecha shows.

Either way, giving a mecha a knife to hold in their hand seems kind of silly.

We're at episode twenty at this point, so I'm not really expecting any big surprises. The animation is still exceptional and the music adequate. The thing that bugged me, as I said above, about this episode is the actual battle itself. There's a lot of foreshadowing about how if Sousuke can't complete his mission, it'll be bad news for everyone involved, but even Gauron doesn't seem to put up much of a fight.

Except that the AI cuts out on Sousuke for some, as-yet-unknown, reason. Not to mention that Gauron seemed to have given up pretty easily (it just took a building collapsed around him).

I'm expecting a surprise next episode.

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 11:54 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2004

Lunar Legend Tsukihime Episode 07

Lunar Legend Tsukihime

"Blue Ruins"

Considering the first six episodes of this series, this one starts out almost seeming too cheerful, with a lot of daylight and bright colors. I don't see how people can take the name "Arcueid" in stride, looking from the outside, it just screems vampire. But then, let's just chalk that up to blissful suspension of disbelief.

Serious kudos to the show for doing a hot springs scene without any sort of fanservice, perversion, or other annoying staples of anime. It passes by tastefully and aesthetically, just like everything else in the series.

Also, I haven't really mentioned the extremely good (cute) character designs in the show. They all definitely fall into a character design you'd see on a more tradition romantic comedy, but the other parts of the show work well enough to make these characters fit right in.

There are some interesting revelations (more questions, actually) in this episode, about Akiha (a suspicious character since the beginning), which mainly comes to light through the very weird interaction between Ciel, Akiha and Aruceid.

I still can't say if the pace is taking away from the show. I think it isn't, as I'm always surprised after an episode finishes, getting deeply engrossed in the beautiful art and bittersweet dialogue. If you don't like slow shows though, you probably won't like this one.

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 12:33 AM | Comments (0)

Full Metal Panic! Episode 21

Full Metal Panic!

"Deep Trap"

If you're going to reuse frames, please let at least one minute go by before we have to watch the same thing twice. Call it a rule of thumb.

There's a lot of CG in this episode, and it's not very good. My standards are high, but if you can't make the two styles mesh well, then you really shouldn't do it. Cut corners, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Now that we have the gripes out of the way, let's move on to the good stuff. As you probably suspected, Gauron's up to no good. At this point, it seems like the show is turning into something like a sub movie, with betrayal, a big powerful sub in the hands of the enemy, and all that related goodness. In the midst of it all, I like how the relationship between Kaname and Sousuke are being handled (unfortunately cut short by the emergency).

This was a pretty fun episode, and it's nice to see that Mithril was suspicious of Gauron's easy defeat (even if they are totally taken off guard by his counterattack). Just a few more episodes to go!

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 11:11 PM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2004

Lunar Legend Tsukihime Episode 08

Lunar Legend Tsukihime


It must be a testament to the moral turpitude of anime in general that when I see a brother and sister exhibit any sort of affection to each other, I immediately begin to worry I've been sucked into yet another series with a disgusting, incestuous love story.

There's a pretty good action sequence in this episode, but the sound is over-foleyed, which makes it sound kind of ridiculous. (Two knives sound like big swords crashing into each other.)

Something that you may or may not have expected is revealed in this episode (though if you didn't see any strangeness coming, you need to be less trusting). Character interaction feels lacking in this episode, as it's mostly plot driven. Given how the show's been going, this actually hurts it, and makes it less enjoyable than the previous episodes. Action (which was found in the earlier episodes) actually feels out of place, at this point, especially as it's over-dramatized, and Tohno running around slashing with his knife has always seemed a little off.

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 12:34 AM | Comments (0)

Ai Yori Aoshi Episode 01

Ai Yori Aoshi


Ugh. Well, it's a romantic comedy, and it's harem-style. My expectations will be very low, accordingly.

Let's see... the art is good, looks great, you'll like it especially if you like really big eyes. I'm a little more partial towards medium to small eyes, so I'm a little turned off, but it's all very colorful and appealing.

Aoi has the unfortunate distinction of falling into my least favorite category of character: the subservient female. It's even worse in this show. She's been trained since she was a child to be Kaoru's wife. So we've basically gone as subservient as possible. I'm sure she'll show the requisite (small) amount of backbone throughout the show, but generally just cater to Kaoru and blush a lot.

I'd also like to point out that it's not that I immediately hate characters of this type. After all, I do have a thing for Belldandy.

If you've ever seen a show like this, you know how it starts. Two people, destined to be together, finally meeting after long enough that they basically forget each other. Then other women/men get in the way of destiny, but eventually love triumps.

Oh shoot, maybe I should have warned you about the spoilers.

Alright, I won't guarantee that everything will work out for the best (I've only watched one episode, after all), but come on.

In this twist on the normal story, Aoi and Kaoru met during their childhood... and... Oh wait, no, not much twist there.

The worst part about the genericness of this first episode is the fact that you have to be beaten over the head with the fact that the duo don't know each other, despite the fact that through flashback, you will be keenly aware that Aoi is looking for Kaoru. Most people probably know the premise of the show before watching it anyways, so do we really have to suffer through a whole episode of this? Apparently so.

Rating: C+

Posted by Kei at 09:23 PM | Comments (1)

January 08, 2004

Lunar Legend Tsukihime Episode 09

Lunar Legend Tsukihime


Wow, this episode was actually pretty heavy. They pour on some pretty disturbing scenes throughout its course, with a lot more information about the Tohno family revealed. I am kind of confused, though, about how exactly the Tohno family storyline has anything to do with Arcueid's story (I have some suspicions, but we'll see).

Also, I'm not sure if there's more to the relationship between the Tohno family and their twin maids, or if it's as simple as it seems, and their purpose is to serve the Tohno family.

This might be the first episode where Shiki doesn't have to sneak out at night, and for that I am intensely grateful. We're closing in on the end now, and more and more information is finally coming out.

But it's still pretty slow.

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 07:42 AM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2004

Ai Yori Aoshi Episode 02

Ai Yori Aoshi


Last episode I complained about Aoi, but this episode it'll have to be Kaoru. He, unfortunately, falls into the category of whiny male lead. "Why did this happen to me?" Despite the fact what he's getting is probably better than he could ever dream of.

What is it about that first meal in shows like this, where the subservient female makes a feast for the guy, but never makes any food for herself. Weird...

Anyways, we get to see Aoi being suitably housewifey for Kaoru, doing all the chores and stuff (boy, they sure try hard to make Aoi appealing to their core demographic, eh?). It's an easy enough solution, though. Why bother making Aoi an interesting character that people will find appealing on her own, when you can just make her every fanboy's dream?

Sorry, so I ended up complaining about Aoi again, but she's such an important part of this show, that it can't bode well that she's such a two-dimensional character.

Though, I will say, if you like that sort of girl, you will probably absolutely love this show.

Rating: C-

Posted by Kei at 12:50 AM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2004

Ai Yori Aoshi Episode 03

Ai Yori Aoshi


In the grand tradition in this sort of show, one of the early female characters must be introduced during the most awkward moment possible.

This is sort of a fast-forward episode in terms of the levels of relationship between Aoi and Kaoru that go by. Technically it doesn't take very long, but let's say it tosses what could have been a few episodes worth of show out of the way. I've been watching enough slow shows lately, so I'm not exactly complaining. My only real problem is that it's kind of hard to believe, but hey, I guess people get mail order brides every day, and it probably works similarly (if a little more creepily).

We learn a little bit more about Kaoru's backstory, and that's about the extent of character development. Right now, this series is the very definition of average.

Rating: C

Posted by Kei at 01:53 AM | Comments (0)

Lunar Legend Tsukihime Episode 10

Lunar Legend Tsukihime

"Crimson Red Moon"

Reflecting back on a decade of Shingetsutan Tsukihime episodes, it occurs to me that the Shiki/Arcueid relationship wasn't built up in the most convincing way. Sometimes it's hard to accept that being killed by Shiki somehow piqued a romantic interest in Arcueid (plain interest, I can see). Either way, when they are together, their interaction seems believable.

The truth about Ciel is revealed in this episode, and while there have been some hints before, the actual truth is somewhat surprising.

More than that, though, I was happy to see more of the love story (can it really be described as love?) between Shiki and Arcueid, these two extremely different chracters (not only to each other, but for anime in general).

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 08:39 PM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2004

Ai Yori Aoshi Episode 04

Ai Yori Aoshi

"Living Together"

Another episode of Me and My Slave. That's the translation right?

Hey, look at that! It's episode four. If you've been reading for a while, then you might know that when I hit episode four of a series, I tend to like to comment about the music. In fact, usually it isn't planned, it's just that episode four is where the intro stuff goes away, and I desperately feel the need to find something to write about.

Where was I?

Ah, yes, the music.

Well, when it's there, it ranges from nice (the piano theme is pretty good), to that crap that usually comes with shows in this genre. Even my favorite, Ah! My Goddess, is guilty of this. If only they could stick to the pianos. More often than not, however, the music is noticable only because of its absence. Lots of long stretches without music, and even when there is some sort of accompaniment, it's somewhat restrained.

On the story side of things, the Sakurabas have apparently decided to go 180 and let Aoi be with Kaoru (hey, well, there goes the main barrier of the show, right?), which seems completely weird, but I'm sure they have some sort of sinister motive behind it all.

If you like Aoi, you'll probably love this show regardless of its crappiness (legions of Love Hina fans raise your hands), and if you don't like her (as I don't), you probably won't enjoy it.

Rating: C+

Posted by Kei at 07:45 PM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2004

Ai Yori Aoshi Episode 05

Ai Yori Aoshi

"Old Friend"

Up until now, at least AYA had its relative lack of fanservice going for it, but this episode takes a dramatic turn for the worse, going all out with gratuitous, stupid fanservice. I love when a scene is framed so that the screen focuses only on the lower (breasts down) part of a speaking female character.

Ugh, what the heck are they thinking with that twangy crappy music for Tina's theme. I swear to god.

Random strangers deciding to live with the main male and female, a hallmark of any show of this type. Though it's not entirely formulaic! In this episode, we get two female introductions, instead of just one. (I guess the characters weren't interesting enough to warrant their own episodes.)

In case you couldn't tell, I'm not a very big Tina fan. She has a really boring character design, terrible theme music, bad greeting, hyena laugh and a permanent cat tooth thing.

And, seriously, who grabs a woman's breasts in greetings?

Rating: C-

Posted by Kei at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2004

Lunar Legend Tsukihime Episode 11

Lunar Legend Tsukihime

"Night of Disaster"

The surprise identity revealing that happens in this episode shouldn't surprise you if you have even the smallest bit of intuition, but on the off chance you don't, I won't spoil it here.

Ah, at moments like that, I can't help but recall the lines from The Matrix Revolutions:

NEO: That's impossible.
SMITH: Not impossible... Inevitable.

I suppose I could further describe the content of this episode using another Keenuism:


I joke, but in all seriousness, this is a great episode of the show, and definitely the payoff that we've been waiting for. After a little detour, we get more of the Shiki/Arcueid romance, along with plot revelations at every turn. If you've been able to live with the pacing of the show (it doesn't bother me at all anymore), then here's your reward.

Rating: A+

Posted by Kei at 12:45 AM | Comments (0)

Lunar Legend Tsukihime Episode 12

Lunar Legend Tsukihime

"Moon World"

Wow, just when I was about to complain about the bland character designs (especially when Shiki takes his shirt and glasses off... say hello to every generic male anime character) in general, when Ciel takes her coat off, and displays all sorts of interesting Christian tatoos. But, it's a little late for that.

Well, this is the last episode, so I guess I need to do a little wrapup. I'm not going to say anything about the ending (in this paragraph) except that it was good, fitting. It's a much more complete ending than the usual fare in anime, and for that I'm intensely grateful. (But for the love of god, can we stop rolling the credits in the middle of the ending!)

Now, here's my spoilerific review of the content of the last episode (skip the next paragraph if you haven't seen it for yourself).

You don't really expect there to be a happy ending after everything that went by, and the episode tries to convince you there's hope for a happy resolution. Thank goodness there isn't. It could have worked, I suppose, but what they used makes the most amount of sense, and has a great deal of emotional impact. Not to mention the fact that it fits so perfectly with the style and theme of the show.

Overall, the show had great animation, visuals, music and voice acting. If there was one knock on it, like I pointed out many times: if you can't stand a slow-paced show, you won't be able to watch this one. This show definitely didn't turn out the way I expected it to, as it constantly made me re-examine my expectations.

Rating: A+

Posted by Kei at 01:28 AM | Comments (3)

January 14, 2004

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 11

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Gravel Earth - Part One"

I guess Fletcher auditioned for the part of Naruto, but was turned down, and only managed to find work as one of the plethora of unimportant characters in Fullmetal Alchemist. Speaking of bad character designs, how about Fletcher's brother? He just looks like a bigger version of Ed. Nothing like making antagonists that look like your protagonist...

It was kind of cute earlier when there have been alchemy fights in the show, but this one reaches a new low when Fletcher's brother transmutes a fire hose to spew red water at Ed, and he responds by transmuting his dinky arm blade thing into an honest-to-god umbrella.

By the way, before I get a chance to sum up the first ten episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist:

1. Ed and Al are traveling
2. They arrive at a town
3. They talk to some of the people, get a meal, something like that
4. The townspeople discover they are alchemists
5. They immediately do something bad to them
6. Quick look at a new character, seems inconsequential
7. Then they realize that Ed's a state alchemist
8. Now they need his help
9. There's a bad guy alchemist around
10. They investigate
11. Turns out that guy you met earlier is actually the bad alchemist
12. Ed wins
13. The town is happy
14. Let's go to the next town!

It's been almost a dozen episodes and we've barely had more than a minute of the bad guys introduced in the first (not to mention being sidetracked by a half dozen flashback shows).

The worst part about episode eleven, though, is the fact it's a part one. We can look forward to more of this crap in the next one.

Rating: D+

Posted by Kei at 01:12 AM | Comments (1)

January 16, 2004

Peace Maker Kurogane Episode 1

Peace Maker Kurogane

"Cherry Blossoms"

For the first two minutes of the show, I could have sworn I was staring at recycled backgrounds from Rurouni Kenshin.

Obviously, this show is going to suffer a lot of comparisons to Kenshin. We've got the same time period (different point of view), a very similar art style and design, and some of the themes found in Kenshin. Also, the main character, so far, seems a lot like Yahiko, even down to the "I just want to be stronger," talk.

The animation of the show is pretty good, but during action sequences, cost-cutting makes the scenes look very cheap. Again, the show is probably suffering from comparisons to Rurouni Kenshin (especially the OAV, which most likely had a tremendously larger budget). Something that stuck out to me, also, was the way the characters' mouths move when they talk. From some angles, only the lips animate (no facial changes), which further exemplifies some of the corners cut in the animation process.

The show follows the story of Tatsu, who wants to join the Shinsengumi so that he can avenge his dead parents. Of course, he also wants to be the strongest man in all of Japan. Kind of hard to do when you're just a kid though, especially when your first challenge is to fight one of the Shinsengumi's best swordsmen.

It's always hard to judge the content of a show from its first episode, with so much setting establishment and character introduction, but the first episode of Peace Maker Kurogane doesn't really grab me as something special. However, I have to imagine the people who created this show know that it will invariably draw comparison to Kenshin, so it remains to be seen what their take on this period of Japanese history is.

Rating: C

Posted by Kei at 11:36 PM | Comments (6)

January 17, 2004

Ai Yori Aoshi Episode 06

Ai Yori Aoshi

"Family Tradition"

This show is littered with voice actors that absolutely infuriate me in the early goings. I couldn't stand Aoi's voice at first, but I've become apathetic to it after a half dozen episodes. On the other hand, Taeko's voice is so helium-induced, it gives me a perverse joy to see her failing at being a housekeeper.

As a side comment, is Aoi's hair such a unique shade that she has to wear the same clothes every episode?

Fairly entertaining episode, nothing really special or extraordinary, but it's competent in its formulaic, fanservicey way. Not much development in Kaoru and Aoi's relationship, but you do get to see a little glimpse of them being happy together (which is nice). I'm guessing they've spent as much time as they're going to developing them until some sort of larger obstacle is put between them (say another few roommates or some sort of family scandal).

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 11:49 PM | Comments (1)

January 19, 2004

Ai Yori Aoshi Episode 07

Ai Yori Aoshi

"Spiritual Illusion"

Ugh, Taeko's voice is so annoying... And it's yet another in the illustrious line of inept anime characters who say sorry all the time.

This episode deals with the photo club a lot, and it sort of reminded me just how much this show is like Ah! My Goddess. You've got the goofy, shy hero (Keiichi), the demure and eager-to-please girlfriend (Belldandy), and the university club they're a part of (the auto club), which features a crazy leader (leaders, in the other case) and the bumbling clumsy girl (Hasegawa).

Well, it's a hot springs episode. Amazingly, this wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. There is much less fanservice (especially after the last episode) than you might think, and the story really has little to do with the gang visiting a hot springs. There's no peeping subplot! Can you believe it?

There's another nice moment between Kaoru and Aoi (accompanied with some nice piano music), but it almost feels like we're forced to sit through the fluff of the rest of the show, just for a two minute payoff. The other parts are just so pointless, it's like they're just going through the paces to fill up time.

Rating: C+

Posted by Kei at 12:04 AM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 12

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Gravel Earth - Part Two"

The two part Gravel Earth story goes out with a whimper. I never really got into this story more than wondering why the imposter Ed looks so much like an older version of him. It is a pretty good variation on the standard 7-8-11-12-13-14 second of a two parter story.

Alright, in all fairness, they sort of scrambled around the usual plot points, devices, and characters into something I still care little about.

You know, if all this equivalent trade stuff is true, I think I should be getting some good entertainment in exchange for my time. That either says something about my time or the quality of this show. Here's my guess:

Rating: C

Posted by Kei at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2004

Ai Yori Aoshi Episode 08

Ai Yori Aoshi

"Cherished Treasure"

I'm hoping that the stupid ferret is actually intended as some sort of metaphor for the relationship between the various characters in the show. Yeah, right. No, it's just a stupid ferret.

Does the vessel of making Miyabi a more likable character have to be the ferret, of all things? This is probably one of the most serious episodes of the show so far, too! And it's about a ferret! Do you see the problem here?

Okay, if I bought into the ferret idea, thought it was a cool new character on the show, I would comment about how this was a heartwarming episode, where the cold Miyabi becomes more accessible after having her heart softened by Uzume, the newest member of the household. It teachers her that possessions aren't as important as feelings. Perhaps this will make her lighten up towards Kaoru. That's what I'd be telling you...


Rating: D-

Posted by Kei at 12:28 AM | Comments (1)

January 23, 2004

Haibane Renmei Episode 1

Haibane Renmei

"Cocoon - Dream of Falling from the Sky - Old Home"

Strangely enough, if I were two use two words to describe Haibane Renmei, they would be "sleepy" and "sunny". That seems weird, right? Well, definitely the way characters act and the pacing of the show is sleepy. Lots of pauses, slow pans over lazy scenery (you know the type). On the other hand, the lazy scenery has a real brightness to it, the characters are sad, but bright. Maybe nostalgic is a better way to put it.

Usually I wait to talk about the music, but Haibane Renmei's music is really interesting in its arrangements. There are a lot of old, Renaissance-ish music stylings in some of the tracks, and some instruments that you don't usually hear in modern classical music. It's quite unobstrusive, too, blending into the background, but fitting scenes very well. (Another sunny part of the show.)

As a first episode, we get lots and lots of questions in this one, and absolutely no answers. In this way, we can very much sympathize with Rakka's situation, thrust into a new world with no memory of the past. Rakka has been born again, into the "Old Home", with a bunch of characters that seem to know as little about their situation as she does. It's all very interesting and mysterious, but it's always hard not to notice that a show is moving slowly. Maybe it's just that anime sort of flounders when there isn't a sort of immediate, episodic action.

However, knowing nothing about the show's plot, and going purely on first impressions, animation, art and music, the show seems interesting enough to warrant further viewing.

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 02:11 AM | Comments (1)

January 24, 2004

Ai Yori Aoshi Episode 09

Ai Yori Aoshi

"One Night"

There's a scene in this episode where Kaoru is watching something on TV that is probably a parody of many other romantic anime series, but it particularly brings to mind Ah! My Goddess (my memory is fading, and at this rate I'll forget about you!). Kind of amusing, but then it's not so funny when you consider what a carbon copy of every other show like this Ai Yori Aoshi is.

I didn't think I could be made to dislike Tina more than I did after the first few episodes with her, but this Tina-centric episode really managed to bring my dislike to new heights. All of her character traits are intensely annoying, coupled with her whiny/screamy voice. Miyabi manages to make herself into a more annoying character with two of her three lines in this episode, which is another feat.

In fact, I really dislike most of the characters in this show. They don't really serve any real purpose other than to fill in the requisite roles for a series of this genre. There's a half-hearted attempt to change the archetypes slightly, but the characters don't really have any depth to them (which I'm sure will be rectified in upcoming episodes...), so you really don't care about them. On top of that, they all have some very striking voice actors, and all their lines are pitched and delivered in such a way that makes me want to put my head through the screen.

But you'll probably like this episode if you like Tina.

Rating: D

Posted by Kei at 10:39 PM | Comments (1)

January 25, 2004

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 13

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Flame VS Full Metal"

It's amazing how fast something can go from funny to insanely weird.

There's a very specific moment of this episode that made me feel that way, and believe me, you'll know it when you get to it.

This episode features a surprising amount of character development, and it comes in an extremely nonstandard way. Most of it is dedicated to Mustang's character, but it's hard to say if this is really developing his character, or just some random insanity they decided to have him go through. Either way, some of the stuff Mustang does in this episode is downright hilarious.

Snuck in around the craziness is also some plot development, with the mysterious Dr. Marco and unrest in Lior City (the first episode seems so far away now), which has my interest hooked for some more episodes.

Also, this episode features one scene with some of the most poorly integrated CG I've ever seen in anime.

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 12:52 AM | Comments (2)

January 26, 2004

Ai Yori Aoshi Episode 10

Ai Yori Aoshi

"Place of Learning"

Haha, after making fun of Ah! My Goddess and all derivative anime series in the last episode, AYA goes ahead and makes fun of all the shows that involve brothers and sisters falling in love (you know what kind I mean).

Most anime plots are pretty bad (recycled, unimaginative, cliched, etc.), so most series rely on its characters to get by, or be appealing. Unfortunately, Ai Yori Aoshi has one of the worst cast of characters in a show I've seen in a long time. I can feel the effort of the show to make me feel for Aoi and her struggles with non-sheltered life, and Kaoru protectiveness of her. But unfortunately, it's an abysmal failure.

Nothing like seeing how pathetic Aoi is to further endear me to her character. She's so innocent and useless, how can you not love her? I mean, the fact that someone asks her a question and she becomes short of breath and nervous, and she wonders whether or not her coming to visit Kaoru on campus will be a bother to him?

Then she apologizes for visiting. Oh, and she doesn't just apologize, that's after she hides behind a statue. Hides from Kaoru (in her embarassment).

This sort of show... I really never want to watch another one where whichever submissive female character asks if she's a bother.

No, you're not! The main character is a loser. If it wasn't for your serendipitous entry into his life, he'd have nothing! So no, you're not a bother. In fact, you've made his life worth living. Not that he'll tell you that, because he's tongue-tied, shy, and has absolutely no idea what's actually going on.

Hey, Tina looks a lot like Hakufu from Ikkitousen!

What a (terrible) show.

Rating: D

Posted by Kei at 01:08 AM | Comments (3)

FLCL Episode 1


"Fooly Cooly"

I'll try and write this review from the perspective of someone who knows absolutely nothing about FLCL. (Not too much of a stretch, as all I really know about it is that it has an extremely loyal following, and that I tried to watch it about eight times previously, but never succeeded.)

The reasons for this are twofold. First, just to accenuate how crazy this show is. Its weirdness transcends words, meanings and descriptions. The other reason is that, without a preconceived notion, it's easier (and probably a little more objective) to take this show at face value.

This is a Gainax/Production IG project, so it should go without saying that the animation and art is great. The character designs are great, with the weird ones just off the scale. The music (hard rock all the way!) is pretty off the wall, too, and goes with the frenetic pace of the show.

Technically there's only one thing I don't like in this show, and that's the use of pages from the manga (presumably, though I've never read it) in the middle of the episode. Gainax does this from time to time, and I really don't like it. There's no real reason to do it, other than to emphasize the fact that this is an adaptation. It sort of adds to the insanity of the show, but it could have been just as insane with rapidly scrolling/animating animation.

As far as the plot goes, there's very little in this one. It's refreshing as FLCL uses some different methods of introducing characters. You don't get to see much about what they're thinking, so everything about them comes out through their actions. Naota is dealing with adolescence, troubled by the attention of Mamimi (his brother's beau), who seems to be using Naota as a stopgap solution.

That's about as far as the normal plot elements go. On the other hand, we've got Haruko, the crazy (how many things in this show are crazy, anyways?) alien (?) biker who seems to herald the beginning of seriously odd changes in Naota's life.

So, knowing nothing about this show, there's not much more you can say about it other than it looks good, sounds good, and exudes craziness. Genre? Who knows. Plot? Who knows. Point? Who knows. It says a lot about the show that it more or less gets by the first episode on style alone. That's not to say the substance isn't interesting, it's just not really there (or maybe it's just whizzing by too fast).

Either way, I'm ready for another episode!

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 11:30 PM | Comments (3)

January 28, 2004

FLCL Episode 2


"Fire Starter"

For being almost complete indecipherable, FLCL is surprisingly entertaining. It does character development well, in non obvious ways (a fresh change for an anime series). On the other hand, the plot is really fragmented, and stuff is just hard to follow. Maybe if you could slow everything down 50% it'd be easier to figure out what's going on.

But that's definitely not the fun of whats' going on here.

From one point of view, though, this show doesn't really succeed on some levels. Most obviously is the fact is whether or not it is really telling a story? Sure some things happen, but we don't really know where anything's going. A lot of glitz and flash is thrown on top of it to try and cover it up, and that aspect of the show is pretty much all that's carrying it forward. There is a lot of it though.

Also, some of the animation in this episode is so over the top and exaggerated that it ceased being appealing to me. I'm kind of boring like that, really liking very standard anime looks over weird ones. I do, however, like the use of color in FLCL. It's a little washed out, but in general, there's a whole bunch of colors you don't usually see.

It's kind of hard to put a finger on exactly what I think about this show. It's pure insanity animated, which is cool, but on the other hand, you spend so much of it trying to figure out what the heck is going on--which is cool--but somewhat distracting. Is there really something going on here? Or is it just a stream-of-consciousness trip?

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 12:02 AM | Comments (5)

January 29, 2004

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 14

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Right Hand of Destruction"

Roze makes a short appearance in this episode, spouting off some really really cliched anime lines. (I mean, seriously, the whole "just trying to move forward" thing must be some sort of Japanese mantra, as often as it shows up in anime.)

Well, this is a pretty slam-bang episode, with a lot of fireworks and action. There's some plot development, but overall, this installment feels like a setup for the new story arc, rather than something that stands on its own.

Finally, the bad guys from early on in the show make their reappearance (oh, they're taking advantage of their fifty plus episodes, aren't they?), and the show definitely picks up because of that. No more cookie-cutter deranged, one-shot alchemists in sight!

This show has shown itself to be pretty good when they choose to move the plot along. Hopefully now that the first dozen setup episodes have gone by, it'll be all uphill from here.

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 12:41 AM | Comments (0)

January 31, 2004

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 15

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Ishbal Massacre"

After a few episodes of buildup, this one has all the answers. This is definitely the best episode of the show, so far, as we get the most plot information along with some interesting character tidbits. It's interesting that this didn't happen earlier (say at the end of the first twelve episodes) instead of in the second part. Cut a lot of that early fat and have an actual conclusion to the first string of stories.

Well, at least we're here now. The show definitely takes a turn for the more serious and dramatic at this point, and I hope it keeps it up (though I expect a few letdown, take-it-easy episodes in the near future) for the long haul.

This isn't a cliffhanger episode, but I'm definitely curious to see how the various characters will react to the revelations at the end of the episode, and how other characters will react to their reactions!

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 04:14 PM | Comments (2)