July 10, 2004

Rurouni Kenshin OAV Episode 1

Rurouni Kenshin

"The Man of the Slashing Sword"

In the spirit of my usual disclaimers, I should tell you that I've watched the Rurouni Kenshin OAVs more than a few times and feel that it's one of the best--if not the best--anime series of all time.

If you haven't seen this series, then do yourself a favor, ignore my review (and subsequent reviews), get this series and watch it. I'll still be here in two hours.

One of the best things about this series is the consistent tone. While I love my anime zaniness as much as everyone else, it really doesn't belong in every series. In this series, they keep everything serious: the way it should be. There's nothing lighthearted about this story. There should be no super-deformed Kenshin and crew, there should be no oro, no zany eyes, etc. The good news is that it doesn't.

On top of that, you get a great, historical story about the revolution against the Tokugawa shogunate (this show is a prequel to the Rurouni Kenshin TV series, in case you didn't know), with young Kenshin in full Hitokiri Battousai mode. That means he's a ruthless killer that knows how to use his sword. Even better than the TV version, this show does not rely on silly, named sword moves, instead with well-choreographed fight sequences (and they're not light on the blood, either).

Also deserving mention are the exceptional production values. A lot of money was put into this four episode OAV series, and it shows in all categories. Taku Iwasaki's score is great, fitting the on-screen action perfectly, while equally able to stand on its own. Voice acting performances are great, highlighted by the younger, more serious Kenshin. The art and animation is top notch, with no corner-cutting and beautifully rendered scenes that serve as a backdrop to the drama and action of the show.

If for some reason, you didn't take my earlier advice and ran out and watched it, now you have no excuse.

Rating: A+

Posted by Kei at 12:16 AM | Comments (1)

Bakuretsu Tenshi Episode 3

Bakuretsu Tenshi

"City Where the Beast Howls"

The action's a little light in this episode, which is disappointing, because we're stuck with the first part of a multi-episode storyline, where nothing much really makes sense. In this episode, we're dropped right into the "action", with Meg and Jo chasing after some guy for some reason. There's also another guy after him for some reason, and there's also RAPT that's after him, also for some reason.

Of course, we are still in the first few episodes of this show, so I suppose that means we're still being introduced to the flow of the series before the real stuff starts happening. I'm kind of floundering to have anything of substance to say about this show, because substance isn't something that it's high on (it's a style-heavy Gonzo show, which appears to be every other series).

It's still kind of fun to watch Meg and Jo run around and get into trouble, though.

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 01:06 PM | Comments (1)

July 11, 2004

Madlax Episode 5


"Non-Existent - None"

It probably doesn't help that I haven't watched an episode of Madlax for about two and half months, but I was definitely confused by the plot of this episode. While I think some of it is my fault, I think that Madlax is still in this meandering, slow-plot-revelation mode that most Bee Train shows seem to go through (.hack//SIGN, Noir, etc.). I still have no idea how the two heroines' stories mix together (as they've barely shared any time together--episodes, for that matter).

I think Madlax is an interesting character though. She's sufficiently different compared to your usual anime contract killer and her background is obscured enough that I'm still curious to see where it's all going. I feel like I've been watching a lot of introductory episodes, but haven't gotten much exposition.

So, while I couldn't really recommend this series to someone to watch (mainly because as a whole, the first five episodes haven't told me much about the show's plot or premise in much detail), it does have an intangible watchability. I think it has the potential to be a good show, but I'm going to wait and see.

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 07:08 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2004

Saikano Episode 05



I think this is the episode where Saikano begins to show its true colors with the first of many gut wrenching, extremely unhappy scenes. In retrospect, they're not that bad, but they help set up the tone of this show, which is unrepentantly depressing and sad.

As Chise becomes more and more the ultimate weapon the military has made her into, it now manifests itself in her personality, at times seeming like she's taken over by the weapon. Apparently, when she gets sad or angry, it can trigger her ultimate weapon powers (as she doesn't have full control over them), which leads to incredible amounts of destruction. After seeing a small taste of this, Shuji becomes scared of her, stricken between his fear and his need to protect his girlfriend. Meanwhile, he continues his affair with Fuyumi, which only further strains his relationship with Chise.

Generally, the scenes involving Chise and Shuji are depressing enough, but when we see soldiers fighting and dying, it's another level, as soldiers die because Chise's relationship is not going well, and she wants to spend more time with Shuji, not being the ultimate weapon.

This show has a different-sounding voice cast. Shuji has a fairly unique voice, while Chise has a standarish, squealy female voice. The rest of the characters fill in with voices that don't sound like quite what you expect from an anime series, but it all works (though Akemi sounds a little weird to my ear). I don't think there's any show that sounds quite like Saikano.

Speaking of sound, Saikano also features a really good soundtrack that mixes catchy, moody classical music with guitar riffs of the main themes, and meshes extremely well with the slow, melancholy pace of the show.

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 02:59 AM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2004

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 34

Fullmetal Alchemist

"The Theory of Greed"

Considering Winry is tagging along with the Elric brothers at this point, it's amazing how little she shows up. She only gets to have a part during downtime, when Ed needs some automail repairs, or little parts like that. Really, this show is quite the sausagefest! Ed and Al are leaving Izumi-sensei behind, which means that's minus one more female. There's always Hawkeye, but considering how little time Mustang gets (no appearance in this episode!), that's another small female part.

On the other hand, I admire the fact that Fullmetal Alchemist doesn't feature gratuitous female roles, just for the sake of having them. Fanservice is notably (and gratefully) absent from the show (with the exception of the current, Winry-centric ending credit animation).

There are two good fight sequences in this episode, which are always fun (though watching Ed fight Yoda-style isn't really my cup of tea--I happen to think that his Baraka-like hand blade isn't the coolest of weapons).

As a viewer, I sort of feel like I'm in the same boat as Ed and Al. After the previous, strong story arc, I'm sort of adrift. There are a lot of threads sliding around, and a lot of questions (a few new ones) that have posed themselves, with only hits at their answers. Perhaps Ed and Al's leaving to move on to Ishbal will bring everything together again, but the show feels a little lost at this point.

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 12:47 AM | Comments (2)

Samurai Champloo Episode 1

Samurai Champloo

"Tempestuous Temperments"


I had no idea what to expect from what I'd heard about this show, but what I got certainly wasn't what I expected. (That is to say that I was surprised about what the show was about, not just that it turned out to be good.)

Let's see. If I were to come up with a quick description of what Samurai Champloo is, I'd call it a "hip-hop samurai action show". My first impression of the show is that it's kind of like Cowboy Bebop with samurai instead of bounty hunters and hip-hop instead of jazz (complete with weird, scratching transitions from scene to scene).

The part that stands out the most about the first episode of Samurai Champloo would have to be the action sequences. There's more than a few fights in the first episode (it's almost like one continous fight, once the show starts rolling), and the action is actually pretty cool. Mugen fights with a spastic, breakdancing sword technique, while Jin uses a much more traditional, economy-of-movement sword style. Fighting against and with each other is extremely well realized, and fun to watch. On top of that, the show has a significant level of gore and violence, so people are getting in some serious pain.

I have no idea what this show is about, from the first episode, but there's a loose story introduced about Fuu (the last of the three protagonists), recruiting Mugen and Jin to help her find someone. Other than that, I can only hope the show continues to have the cool action, and crazy style along with whatever it brings to the table.

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 01:47 AM | Comments (1)

Saikano Episode 06



The emotional roller coaster rolls right into the halfway point of the show, throwing a few more curveballs into Shuji and Chise's relationship by way of Shuji's relationship with Fuyumi.

One of the (I suspect) really depressing storylines of this show has to be between Shuji's friend and Akemi. I suspect that Akemi is actually in love with Shuji (falling squarely into your normal anime stereotype), but then after getting that thrown in her face, decided to go out with Shuji's friend. Of course, that's all the more depressing because it's the last bit of convincing he needs to enlist, willing to die to protect her.

Ultimately, Saikano is a breath of fresh air. It's a romantic drama with a decidedly different (and extremely serious) twist, despite the fact it features heavy sci-fi, and a wartime setting. Considering how done to death most romantic anime (especially the comedies) are, this is a really good change of pace.

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 02:21 AM | Comments (1)

July 18, 2004

Samurai Champloo Episode 2

Samurai Champloo

"Redeye Reprisal"

After an intriguing, and overall extremely good first episode, Samurai Champloo's second effort was a tremendous letdown for me. The cool, uniqueness of the first episode seems to be completely missing, and we get a really standard story featuring our three heroes that involves (as one of the main antagonists) an enormous, hideously-scarred man (the kind that permeates in anime as stupid henchman).

As you might expect from that sort of character, he was called a monster and driven out by the prejudice of normal folks, and flies off the handle at being called a monster. Fuu is friendly towards him (maybe she's heard a story like this before), which ultimately saves her life, and Mugen's (who kills him, anyways).

Where the first episode was fresh and interesting, this episode was slow, standard and ultimately meaningless. Maybe taken into context with upcoming episodes, the few hints that were dropped about the overall story of the show will make it seem better, but I can't help feeling anything but disappointed.

Rating: C+

Posted by Kei at 11:58 PM | Comments (3)

July 25, 2004

Ai Yori Aoshi Episode 11

Ai Yori Aoshi


Oh. My. God.

I think J.C. Staff should be embarassed by the English in the first part of this episode. It's bad enough when the "English" girl tries to speak it ("Here is not motor circuit."), but when Tina, our American character, forgets English, I wanted to put my head through the screen. I think the really funny part about it is how much Mayu's voice actress changes pitch and tone when she speaks English instead of Japanese.

Ai Yori Aoshi is a harem show, so the more challengers for Kaoru's affections the better! This time it's Mayu, a (presumably) childhood friend of Kaoru's who was sent off to London so she could learn English. Now she's back and immediately is back in love with Kaoru. Being the nice guy that he is, Kaoru isn't really able to fight her off, and agrees to spend some time with her (which naturally makes Aoi worried).

This entire episode is used to explain Mayu's character, or rather, her main characteristic, which is her loneliness. Above being told that she's a solitary girl, this is reinforced by visuals, her attitudes, direct observations in dialogue, etc. I'm not really sure if an entire episode was necessary for this introduction, I think we all get the point.

Rating: C

Posted by Kei at 11:05 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2004

Saikano Episode 07


"What I Want to Protect"

The various cast members of Saikano all get a chance to make some pointed observations during the course of another emotionally trying episode. I think it's interesting that this show doesn't really focus on adult opinions at all (except for brief encounters with soldiers), but instead focuses completely how high school aged kids see and react to the war in their own way.

One of the larger plot threads that seems to run through this episode is how relationships are moved on from, or how people react to their ending. Shuji and Chise struggle with trying to remain distant from each other, despite the fact that both are still very much in love (and failing, more or less), while Akemi wonders if their apparent breakup would make it okay for her to pursue Shuji, whom she's secretly been in love with all this time. The girlfriend of the boy who was killed earlier on (I forget his name), has moved on from his death (and has a great line about love during wartime), but not entirely, as she's still wearing his pendant around her neck. Then there's Atsushi, who has contented himself to fighting for Akemi, as she won't return his love for her. Despite the fact that he has placed himself in an absolutely awful situation, he seems satisfied.

The other thing of interest is the increasing presence of Chise's "other side". Her ultimate weapon alter ego comes through more often, talking dispassionately about the troops she has killed and the destruction she's wrought, while also driving the normal Chise to seek more power. On top of that, her other side absolutely frightens Shuji (no surprise there), which pains her greatly, and probably is pushing her more down turning into a more powerful and efficient weapon. It's almost like she's given chances to take control of her humanity, but the fact is that she's gone too far to turn back.

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)