April 03, 2004

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 25

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Farewell Ceremony"

Every time I start getting down about Fullmetal Alchemist, they roll out an episode that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about it again. This episode kicks off the next phase of Ed and Al's journey, and serves up a big crazy moment in the process.

Big spoilers!

It's always pretty shocking (and rare) when a semi-important character is killed in an anime series, and Fullmetal Alchemist's first big casualty, Lieutenant Colonel Hughes, was no exception. It's probably emotionally worse because Hughes has mostly seemed the least serious of the entire cast of characters. Always talking about his daughter, acting silly on the phone (to throw off anyone who might be listening in on his conversations with Mustang), and messing around with Ed and Al, he definitely definitely didn't seem like a likely candidate to be removed.

But he's dead and in the ground now, and the funeral moment with Elysia (his daughter) is not a happy one.

The good to great episodes of this series have definitely made up for the average ones.

Rating: A

Posted by Kei at 10:53 PM | Comments (6)

April 04, 2004

Maria-sama ga Miteru Episode 1

Maria-sama ga Miteru

"La Déclaration Troublante - A Souer's Disturbing Declaration"

Something occured to me as I forced myself through an episode of this show that was obviously not intended, aimed or really any effort given at all, to appeal to me or an audience like me.

Guys have shows (like Ikkitousen, for example) where high schools devolve into some sort of Grapes of Wrath system, where the powerful run the student council, lord over the other students, and run the schools as if they were some sort of institution. This is also a cultural thing, I think, where in Japan, students have a lot more to do with school business than in the States.

Well, this is obviously the female version. Instead of having titles like "the Big Three", the leaders of this female institution are named after roses of some color or variety. Their everything is prim and proper. The picture is fuzzy, light diffused. Lots of still shots where only the hair animates. You get the idea.

For all that this show is totally not directed at me, I can appreciate it. The story is interesting in its... differentness. The music is nice and the art is appealing, if you're into the big eyes, shoujo things (I am absolutely most certainly not). At least it's a show about a lot of girls interacting with each other in eyebrow-raising ways and not a group of boys. That'd probably provoke some sort of allergic response in my eyeballs.

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 12:28 AM | Comments (2)

Kita He: Diamond Dust Drops Episode 4

Kita He: Diamond Dust Drops

"Kitami - Shiraishi Karin - Part II"

Alright, alright. So I was wrong about the source of the e-mails. But the nurse was a close second in suspicion!

So on the bright side, this show apparently isn't all about pedophilia, cradle-robbing and all that other good stuff.

On the other hand, that also makes it about really boring, mundane stuff. The issues dealt with in this story arc seem so tame. Fear of an operation, a family supporting Karin at great expense to themselves, while Karin doesn't realize the sacrifice. Two episodes really isn't enough to make much of an interesting story.

I really like the music, though.

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2004

Midori no Hibi Episode 1

Midori no Hibi

"Right Hand Girlfriend"

Now, here's the reason I watch anime! Where else could you find a story about a guy with a girl as a right hand? No, I mean that literally. A girl as his right hand! Genius!

Hey, I always want romantic comedies to deviate from the norm, and this is definitely getting out there. The main character, Seiji is sort of like a younger, less principled Onizuka (hey, he's got some serious principles). From the way he acts to the things he does and his character design, I think it's a fair comparison. Well, of course, Onizuka didn't have a girl on his right hand.

Basically, Midori is a girl that the romantically-challenged Seiji never noticed, but who is very much in love with him. She probably made some sort of wish to be with him (or something along those lines), and fate twisted it into their current situation.

There's a good amount of CGI in this first episode, mostly used for backgrounds and crazy camera movement, and it blends fairly well, though it's usually evident when it's used. The pacing and content of the show is suitably zany and whimisical given the show's premise, and it's all pretty entertaining.

I can only imagine it'll get more insane from here!

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 09:01 PM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 26

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Her Reason"

New opening and ending!

This is a filler episode, but it serves as a bridge to the next story sequence. Luckily, like all the good filler episodes, this one has Winry! That's got to be a letter grade improvement right there.

It's kind of a superfluous story, fleshing out the idea of automail and perhaps Winry's reasons for being so devoted to its creation. Winry definitely has the big sister attitude to Ed and Al, and her desire to create automail replacements for Ed's arm and leg is greatly motivated by the fact she doesn't want them to continue their quest (which has proven to be a pretty dangerous one).

But I still wonder at what point Winry is going to become a more central character. I think she's had more face time in the credits than she has during episodes so far.

Following one of the other subplots, Mustang continues (slowly) rising through the ranks of the military. He hasn't made much progress in the last dozen or so episodes. Actually, speaking of characters that haven't gotten much face time, Mustang's been a non-factor for longer than I can remember now.

Hmm, it's a long show, so I'm sure all these various threads will come together eventually, it's just a question of how long.

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 09:33 PM | Comments (0)

April 06, 2004

Phantom Episode 1



There are some extremely slow stretches to this show where it seems like the show can barely be called "animation" since we're just seeing a series of still, static images. Apparently, what was going on was that most of the animation budget was put into the action sequences, so everything else had to bite the bullet.

Those parts are definitely the high part of the show. You get a lot of Hong Kong gun-fu and a lot of stylized violence (think Noir) which is done pretty well. Unfortunately, the other parts of the show tend to really suck.

Basic idea is that this kid has some sort of innate assassin ability, his memory is erased by these bad guys, and he's being reprogrammed as an assassin. Now you can watch the episode fast forwarding to the good parts!

The music isn't terrible, but it seems out of place most of the time. If you could graft Noir's music onto this show, it'd probably make the good parts even better. Who needs story, anyways? Just give me more violence.

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2004

Kono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai Episode 1

Kono Minikuku Mo Utsukushii Sekai

"Dawn Is the Separation of Light and Darkness"

A subtitle befitting of the show's title!

This is the sort of first episode that makes me never want to watch a show again.

Everything about it is confused. I know nothing about this show. After watching one installment, I still know nothing about this show. It's got parts of a high school story, some sort of harem thing going on, science fiction, a mysterious girl from who knows where (that matches our hero's desire), crazy transformations and monster battling! Uh, so what the hell is this show really about then?

It seems like it's an attempt to be really mysterious about the various themes and plots of this show. Well, that's all well and good, except I'd really like to know what kind of show I'm watching. Everything that happens is either vague or unexplained. Not to mention the whole part in the beginning about extinctions of species on earth and stuff. No really, how does it all fall together?

Okay, naturally that's what the other episodes are for, but I really can't stress enough how much I feel the need to know more about the show from one episode. Luckily, I feel duty-bound to watch another episode, so they win this time!

The art and animation is all top notch (no surprise there, it's a Gainax production). More fanservice than I expected (and a lot of it very blatant), but it's not so bad that if you're allergic to that sort of thing that you'll want to turn it off. If I knew more about the show, I'd have a better idea of whether or not all the fanservice is appropriate or not, but at this point, who knows. Who am I kidding? This is anime, it's all appropriate and necessary.

I'd like to say more about the show, but really, I'm just confused.

Rating: C+

Posted by Kei at 12:54 AM | Comments (0)

Madlax Episode 1


"Gun Dance - Dance"

The first half of the episode had me thinking this might be the first show with a Yuki Kajiura soundtrack that wasn't completely overpowering everything else (see .hack and Noir). Then in the second half, it was business as usual. It isn't quite as strong as her previous work, but they obviously invested money in her music, and they want to showcase it. Which isn't bad, since it's usually very good.

Good production values on the show, animation and art is all very good, as is the music (see above). I like Madlax's character design, and find it suitably appealing. Hey, who doesn't like a contract killer/assassin/agent who does her business wearing a cocktail dress?

If I had a bone to pick with this first episode, it would be with the names. Madlax? Not to mention the names of the countries and the various generals, which were so forgettable (and weird), I can't even recall any of them.

As a first episode, this is a pretty good one. There's still a lot of mystery: What's the deal with Madlax? Who's SSS? What's going on in this setting? But you also get a firm idea of what the show's going to be like. Lots of over-the-top action with an attractive female lead.

Now, as long as the question marks don't turn out to be as silly as the show's name and some of the other names, we'll be in business.

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 01:36 AM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2004

Read or Die TV Episode 4

Read or Die TV

"Medium One Course"

There's a definite mood to this episode.


Lots of lounging around, half-dozing. Oh, and most of the lines are delivered sloooowly.

I was reading in the most recent issue of NewType, that J.C. Staff was extremely proud of the fact they were able to keep the OAV's production values in a long television show. I'm not really sure if I agree with them about that. While the show does have very good values for a television show, it doesn't really come close to the polish of a three episode series. Also, I feel like (so far), J.C. Staff has completely missed the point on R.O.D. I've never read the manga or the novels, so maybe it was the OAV that was totally off the ball. The TV sort of covers similar ground, but without all the slick animation and visuals--the style--that really made the original show.

So, Nenene goes off in search of Yomiko (presumably she received some sort of hint as to where she went off to), which leaves the Paper sisters to get involved in some weird business with Joker (from the OAV) and the Royal British Library. Not much overall plot has been explained at this point, other than that Nenene is looking for Yomiko, who went missing. I'm getting bored of the day-to-day life stuff, so I hope that Joker's introduction means that this show can get under way.

Rating: C

Posted by Kei at 11:03 PM | Comments (2)

April 10, 2004

Tenjou Tenge Episode 1

Tenjou Tenge

"Sacred Area"

Tenjou Tenge is one of those few anime series where I've actually read the manga that is being adapted. This one's definitely for guys. The manga has all the things you could want from a fighting story, gratuitous violence, gratuitous females, etc. etc. It also has some of the most unique character designs this side of Guilty Gear.

But, as anyone who has experience with reading a manga before watching the anime knows, you're basically setting yourself up for disappointment.

It could be that Aya's voice isn't a terrible match for the character, but it sure seems that way to me. She's supposed to be this quiet, sexy killer swordswoman, and ends up sounding like she's been sucking on the helium in her downtime between sword practice (for people who've seen it, she reminds me of Tomoko from GTO). Really, I can't stress enough that I think that this is one of the worst voice acting jobs I've ever heard. She'd make a good match for Kazuki from Maburaho.

Gee, I'm just going all referential in my review today, aren't I?

Also, Oh Great! (the manga-ka behind Tenjou Tenge) put out some pretty slick artwork for the comic, something that the anime doesn't really come close to matching. I won't mark this against the show, but it's something to keep in mind if you were a fan of the manga.

So, anyways, Tenjou Tenge is about a bunch of guys (and girls) who want to kick each other's asses. There's actually a good amount of romance stuff, and some fairly mature themes. The main male character, Souichiro, I could never be a big fan of, mostly because his hair is so stupidly ridiculous (like Goku on a bad hair day or something).

Special mention goes to the absolutely ridiculous opening credit sequence that involves long sequences of the characters bouncing and dancing around. I never would have seen it coming!

I'm pretty sure that if you know nothing about Tenjou Tenge, this episode won't sell you on it. But, if you're into brainless action and pretty girls (fill that void Ikkitousen left), then here's your show.

Rating: C

Posted by Kei at 06:52 PM | Comments (9)

April 12, 2004

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 27

Fullmetal Alchemist


It's been a while since we had a nice, long childhood flashback for Ed and Al, but with their teacher showing up on the show for the first time, we finally get some!

This episode is sort of starting off the third story arc of Fullmetal Alchemist, so their teacher's appearance is basically used as an excuse to explain the things that Ed and Al did to get themselves where they are now.

In another brief, two minute snapshot, we see that Mustang moves inches closer to the power he is seeking (he might even leave for Central City one of these days). On the bright side, I was pretty happy with the character of Izumi (the boys' teacher), even if I think her frequent beatings seem to always screw up the mood of a scene.

Hopefully we can pick up a moving story thread again at some point.

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2004

Texhnolyze Episode 1



"I want shows like Kokaku [Ghost in the Shell] to stop saying things that are hard to understand, and make shows that everyone can enjoy a bit more."
- Yuji Matsukura, Producer, J.C. Staff

There's a gimmick in American comic books known as "the silent issue". It's pretty self explanatory. No sounds, no bubbles, just art. It annoys the heck out of me, as it rarely seems natural, always contrived.

Enter Texhnolyze, which, for its first ten minutes, feel like the anime equivalent. No music, echolicious, nightmare-like sounds, no dialogue, and a bunch of slow motion images that barely serve as an introduction to what's going on. Then you get three lines of dialogue, and you're back into yawnsville.

There's no music, either. Because, you know, silent soundscapes evoke a certain feeling. So, in that sense, it fits great. The most common sound effect is not speech, but rapid breathing (I'm not kidding).

Animation, art and style-wise, this is the next in a long line of anime with long, slow shots (and even slower pans), where everything moves at a sloth's pace, drawn out to the point where you could watch it fast-forwarded and not miss anything. You get the feeling that every shot has been carefully constructed to convey some sort of meaning. It doesn't really come across, and I don't see why anyone would care except for the pretentious guys who come up with this crap. In fact, this whole torturous episode just feels like one big ego stroke.

The creators are screaming out at you:

Check out how not commercial I am! Check out how deep my dark, gritty pictures are! Can you not see my genius from the darkness? And, oh, look, a girl wearing a mask! The reason you think you're confused, is you just don't understand my high concept! Philistine.

This is art at its finest.

Rating: F

Posted by Kei at 10:53 PM | Comments (7)

Madlax Episode 2


"Crimson Moon - Crimson"

If there's one thing I respect about J.C. Staff, it's that it actually manages to put out anime series that feel different.

On the other hand, Bee Train (working the magic behind Madlax, Noir, and .hack//SIGN) manages to make sure that you know it's a Bee Train show. Whether it's because they seek out licenses and properties that fit into this mold of show they like creating, is beyond my knowledge, but, let's be honest: this show seems almost disgustingly like Noir. (Margaret is voiced by the same actress as Kirika from Noir, and the two character designs are almost identical.)

Bee Train should just dedicate themselves to making music videos for Yuki Kajiura. (I consider Noir and .hack//SIGN to be the Romeo Must Die of anime).

And just when you think it's completely weird that an emponymously named show would not feature its titular character in the second episode, Madlax appears for one line at the very end of the episode.

Anyways, in this episode, we're introduced to the other female lead, Margaret. She's a daughter of a noble family, a schoolgirl. She has a mysterious past (involved in some "accident"), and obviously some trouble befell her noble family in the past. There's also some other things happening, with some mysterious (crazy) guy, paying far too much money for some artifact, but nothing's really explained (what, you want answers?).

Way to keep my interest.

Rating: D

Posted by Kei at 11:35 PM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2004

Midori no Hibi Episode 2

Midori no Hibi

"The Love Between Us"

So, Seiji is the bad, tough guy with a heart of gold. That's more or less your plot synopsis for episode two. That counts as character, development, I suppose.

Oh yeah, for the purposes of actually making this a series, when the opportunity arises for Seiji to reveal their current situation, Midori stops him, because she doesn't want her mom to be sad. Because her daughter being in a coma, that's a lot less sad.

I thought she was just referring to how sad she'd be to find out her daughter was in love with this hoodlum (and the fact her daughter was wearing a mini "I Love Seiji" dress.

Rating: C-

Posted by Kei at 12:08 AM | Comments (2)

April 20, 2004

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 28

Fullmetal Alchemist

"One Is All, All Is One"

The importance of this episode will probably be more clear after we get some answers in the next episode. Without this, I'd have to say this was a fairly weak one.

More flashbacks to the Elric brothers' training, how their teacher left them on an abandoned island to learn the way of nature (circle of life, see The Lion King). Their time there was pretty tough, and they had to endure a lot of hardships. However, they eventually refused to be defeated by the island, and became stronger because of it (both physically and mentally). Around the flashbacks, the brothers (present day), are once again left on the island by their teacher, in hopes that they will remember the lesson they learned as children, and give up their goal of performing human transmutation to return themselves to normal.

They're also being stalked by a mysterious child, about whom nothing is revealed (see next episode).

Rating: C+

Posted by Kei at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)

Midori no Hibi Episode 3

Midori no Hibi

"They Day of Discoveries"


We're introduced to Seiji's sister in this episode, who has a pretty boring character design, with the exception being her enormous mouth. I mean, it's huge. And it looks stupid. On the plus side, it matches her obnoxious personality.

This isn't a very serious show, but it's still annoying that his sister (a caricuture, but still!) is so inconsistent. She starts out as a ridiculous, bullying ex-gang leader with a big drinking problem and a psychotic streak. Then the next morning she's talking about Seiji like a good big sister, and then even has some stupid line about hoping that Midori will take good care of him.

It's only episode three, which means--by the code of anime--that nothing interesting can happen anyways, so stay tuned and maybe after the trial period is over, this mindless drivel will just turn into normal drivel.

Rating: D

Posted by Kei at 11:26 PM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2004

Madlax Episode 3


"Blue Moon - Moon"

In this episode, Kirika and Mireille are hired for a job, thinking that it will bring them closer to finding out the conspiracy behind Soldats. It's kind of tough to watch this show, because of the incessant flashbacks to Mireille's childhood (really, I think it's like three times this episode it shows up). On top of that, nothing about the story is really revealed, so I'm still wondering when it's going to pick up. On the plus side, Yuki Kajiura's music is as blaring and obvious as ever, and continues to be the best part of the show (except in those few moments when the action comes up).

Er, oops, this is a Madlax review.

Two minor things that really continue to grate on me in Madlax are the terrible child's voice and the unbelievably stupid names for every proper noun that pops up in the course of an episode.

THE KINGDOM OF GAZTH-SONIKA, ruled by CAWTHRA THE FOURTH, assisted by his public affairs officer GWECK MARABEL.

Anyways. The plot of this episode doesn't do much but have some needlessly (who would actually have themselves killed to create an excuse for military action) convoluted political scheme. I guess it sort of fleshes out Madlax's character, but let's face it, when your name is Madlax, who really cares about your character?

At least Noir had action to go with its cutscenes.

Rating: C

Posted by Kei at 11:55 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2004

Kono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai Episode 2

Kono Minikuku Mo Utsukushii Sekai

"You Are the First"

Gainax is definitely trying to not completely fall into genre cliches with Konomini. I appreciate the effort, and can understand if they incorporate a few, though (hey, nobody's perfect). Sadly, they seem to have chosen to include the bumbling main male character, who has absolutely no idea how to treat the perfect girl that has dropped into his lap. That means a lot of annoying emotional awkwardness where he doesn't do what everyone knows he should, in regards to Hikari.

Oh, um, and there's also excessive fanservice, submissive main female character, another female friend who doesn't want to admit she has feelings for the main character (but gets mad at the progression of the main character and the main female character's relationship), the two dorky friends, and the bumbling parents that doesn't really seem to care about their child's promiscuity.

Oh oh oh! And wait for it...

Wait for it...

Hints of incest!!!!

By the way, if you're a fan of this genre, and you feel really comfortable watching this show, it might be because the seiyuu for Hikari is also the seiyuu for Aoi from Ai Yori Aoshi. (Maybe this is turning into a genre cliche, like having the same seiyuu for Belldandy in Ah! My Goddess and Mizuho in Onegai Teacher).

So, anyways, if you want to see characters act in really unbelievable and unconvincing ways (especially Takeru, whom the audience is supposed to connect with or something), this is a pretty good show for it.

Rating: C+

Posted by Kei at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2004

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 29

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Innocent Child"

A title like that makes me instantly suspicious about the kid.

(Well, that and opening credits.)

You don't have to wonder too long though, because in this episode we get a whole bunch of answers about the various mysteries of the show. They don't come out and tell you how homonculus are created (or why they are created), but if you read between the lines, it should make sense. Also explains the evil woman who looks like Ed and Al's mother!

There's another requisite two minute segment about what Mustang's up to (seriously, is he not going to factor in this season or what).

I'm amazed that this show is still entertaining after twenty-nine episodes, but the slow trickle of information about what's really going on has kept me going (though it's been rough a few times). One thing that's kind of weird at this point in the show is that it seems like Ed and Al are sort of without goals at this point. Yes they want to turn themselves back to normal, but they're backing away from it, and generally just milling around with Izumi (their teacher) and Winry. Not that I'll complain, because who doesn't love Winry? (Just watch that wonderful closing credit sequence!)

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 12:15 AM | Comments (1)

April 28, 2004

Midori no Hibi Episode 4

Midori no Hibi

"Discovery of the Secret!?"

Midori no Hibi is a pretty terrible show. If you like the premise of a love story between an Onizuka-like guy and a cute, innocent girl attached to his right hand, then you probably can't do much better than this one.

The only realy strong point of this show is the art, which is pretty cute and lively.

In this episode, Seiji and Midori's secret is discovered by a crazy doll-otaku from their school Of course, he's convinced that Midori is just an extremely lifelike doll. When he discovers the truth, he just want Midori for himself. Of course, she's not interested. To add insult to injury, the resolution of this episode's story involves the doll otaku LOSING HIS MEMORY, thus forgetting all about Seiji's secret.

Rating: D

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

Saikano Episode 01


"We Fall in Love"

The best and most accurate way to describe the world of Saikano is that it is one in which everyone is constantly blushing.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that I actually saw the first seven or eight episodes of Saikano in its Japanese release, so my reviews may be somewhat colored by that fact. (If it makes you feel better, I don't remember all that much about it, other than I liked it.)

Back to the review. While all the characters do stand around blushing all the time (or maybe it's just hot, or some weird fashion), the show actually takes place in a future or near-future Japan (reference to an F-15 makes me think near-future).

The premise of this show is a story about first love between a boy and a girl, where the girl ends up being transformed into a superweapon to defend Japan from its attackers.

Gotta love anime, huh?

So you get many of the themes that are common in this sort of show, thrown in with a lot of shocking war moments. These crazy events tear Shuuji and Chise in two different directions over the course of the show, and provide most of the tension (after all, who just wants a simple love story these days).

One of the things that really impressed me about Saikano is Gonzo's animation. They did a really good job of capturing emotion through character's movements. One really good example is the scene in the middle where Chise is crying, and using her sleeves to wipe her tears away.

As a jumping on point to this series, this probably isn't the strongest episode. If you're interested in an emotional rollercoaster ride of a story, I can tell you now (with my foreknowledge) that you should watch this series, it gets better real soon. Saikano would probably have been better served with a quicker opening, as the big emotional punch of this episode just doesn't serve up all that much drama (most people watching the show already know that Chise is a weapon of the military).

The animation is extremely good, featuring all of Gonzo's normal high production values, though the music is a little nondescript (at least in the first episode). It does have one very good tune, though, and that turned out to be one of my most vibrant memories from my first viewing of the show.

To sum up, if you want to watch a show that will absolutely punch you in the gut with its emotional twists and turns, you should watch this despite the somewhat average first episode.

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 10:51 PM | Comments (3)

April 30, 2004

Saikano Episode 02


"I'm Growing"

I don't know if it was really necessary to make Chise quite so stupid. I mean, she is an idiot. And on top of that, she can't walk up a hill without almost passing out. If that's the Japanese idea of a superweapon, I guess that means the world is safe.

It's not really that just Chise is stupid though. For example, every character we ever see seems really untraumatized by the fact up to 100,000 people could be dead after the first bombing. Seeing their friend die doesn't stop them from making stupid comments about how cool the jet fighters look.

Now stop blushing. No, I mean it. Please!

I do think it's kind of interesting that the audience is expected to just swallow the concept of the show (Japan being invaded, innocents being slaughtered, and the above heroine as their only hope), without receiving any details, justification, etc. Though, when you think about it, it's probably for the better. I can't see any explanation that would make me feel better about it.

This episode was a little better than the last one, but still not great. The emotional moments are sort of missing something. Surprise and shock, for one thing. If it weren't for the fact I know this show gets better, I'd have a hard time recommending it.

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 01:04 AM | Comments (1)