My tribute to a character in Claymore after ep. 21.

Once she was just a friend;
Now a worthy comrade.
Once she was steadfastly strong;
Now brutally slain.
Disregarding rank and class,
She followed me onward.
Not caring for common principles,
She protected me from harm.
I now weep, for she is gone.
I could not do a thing, and she is no more.
I only pray that she rests at the side,
Of the one and only comfort,
That a noble warrior deserves.
May her soul rest well,
And may her spirit live to guide me,
As I trudge forth,
Through endless paths,
Endless days of agony,
And go on without you, my friend.
May you rest well.
Your journey is at an end.
But I shall celebrate our time together
On this land,
With a strong drink that will not make me forget,
But to remind me,
How you were like a tonic to a hurting soul,
And a comfort,
To a journey-wearied mind.
Let not a thousand warriors stop their wailing,
Let not a hundred noble men stop their cries.
For one of the bravest soldiers,
Has been slain and left us.
Only
Her tales shall remain in our malnourished hearts.

[EDIT: Thank you so much, Mitsuishi Kotono sama, for doing a great job playing Jean - ジーンを演じるすばらしい仕事をするために、三石琴乃様、そんなにありがとう.]

The Vault 03: Mahoromatic (S1) 1-5

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Explanation of the Vault series

Originally published on December 31, 2001. I have, of course, seen the rest of the series as well as season 2 by now. But this is a look at what I was hoping for.

Heh, I just managed to snag episodes 1-5 of the new Gainax TV anime series, Mahoromatic. I wanted to see what the crack animation studio, the makers of some of my most beloved anime ( Evangelion first and foremost, as well as Karekano and the recent FLCL), were up to this time. This show is directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga, a veteran and founder of Gainax studios we haven’t heard from since he directed their very first feature, The Wings of Honneamise.

Briefly, this show is about Mahoro, a battle android who has only a short time left on her lifespan. To extend her life, she goes out of battle mode (she has been fighting aliens) and instead applies to be a maid for Suguru, a junior high school boy who is an orphan (his father was killed in the alien wars and his mother also passed away). They go through wacky adventures together, at least so far. You never know about Gainax and how they end their shows, though Hideaki Anno isn’t in charge this time. :)

Speaking of Anno, the iconoclastic director of Eva and once the head creative honch at Gainax has decided to return to the anime industry (YAY!). He directed the opening sequence of Mahoromatic, and it shows. His love of trains, seen in Eva, Kare Kano, and various other shows he’s directed, is again evident in the beginning of the sequence. There is also one very telling shot which is quoted from the outstanding second half of Evangelion, which I take as a big hint about where this show is going. There are also very fluid flight sequences very akin to his early years as a key animator for SDF Macross and the Daicon IV short–so it looks like he’s gone back to his roots. Yay Anno! Let’s get another anime going, shall we?

The show itself: the budget is obviously not as high as that of their last production, the OAV FLCL, but it’s more than acceptable. This is a very cute show! Mahoro is very sweet and kind, very motherly, perfect for a lonely young orphan like Suguru. Suguru is shy and unsure of himself, but he’s no Shinji (not yet anyway) . . . in the very first episode he stands up for himself. The voice actors and actresses do a charming job of conveying their emotions, and while the story is really not all that original, it is executed well. Note: there is a LOT of fan service in this show–suffice to say that after a long hiatus since the second half of Evangelion, the “Gainax Bounce” is back. I thought it was a bit overdone in spots, especially with the disturbing 25 year old female teacher.

This is especially disappointing since there actually does appear to be a serious subtext to this show, even in these early episodes where it’s relatively light and happy. One scene dealing with Suguru’s late father is handled very well, and it is becoming clear that one theme present in the grim Evangelion–the longing for parental care, especially for that of Mother–might be a big theme in this show too. The more I think about it, the more Mahoro seems to be a mother substitute for Suguru. There is also a military conspiracy plot brewing in the background, which I expect will be played up in later episodes. Certainly all is not as it seems, and it doesn’t look like this show will be sweet forever; at the end of every episode, a stark black screen with white kanji informs us: “Time until Mahoro shuts down: xxx days.” How poignant and disturbing after such a light, happy episode. Video Girl Ai was another show that used a similar idea to great emotional effect.

This is the studio that gave us such great catharthic anime like Evangelion and Kare Kano, and I am prepared for some emotional trauma down the line. It may not necessarily be as brutal as it was in the hands of Anno’s Evangelion but if it can match the emotional intensity, then Mahoromatic may end up being yet another Gainax show that starts as fluff and ends up being valuable. Perhaps a show about an android maid with a lot of fan service can join the ranks of a show about kids piloting giant mecha in being about much more than it seems.

I look forward to finishing this series on fansub, and perhaps purchasing it when it is released in the US.

Rating so far: 3.5/5


Michael is on hiatus for the remainder of August. The Vault series resurrects entries from his personal blog about anime, written from 2002-2006. Entries will appear in the series every other day.

Gunslinger Girl Season 2.

Taken from Anime News Network

Gunslinger Girl’s Second Season Officially Announced
The October issue (on sale August 21) of Monthly Comic Dengeki Daioh has officially announced that a second season of the Gunslinger Girl anime series will be produced. The Japanese magazine runs Yu Aida’s original manga about cybernetically enhanced girl assassins that inspired the anime. The production company Marvelous Entertainment had revealed that a sequel was in the works in its 2006-2007 financial report on May 30, but the company then edited the report to remove the Gunslinger Girl reference in early June. Source: Ultimatum

El Cazador 21 – You know, they could’ve used more episodes like this one!

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nicely-animated-flowers.jpglilio-is-smarter.jpgOops!

OK, so this show doesn’t have a lot of gun fights despite showing so many of it in the OP and ED sequences. Also, there are a lot of fillers in which the only thing I see are Nadie’s incompetence and some silliness that just seem out of place to me. But remember back a few episodes ago I kind of raised my score for one episode of this show? Well, here’s another episode that will get more praises from me.

Finally, the council gets impatient (about time), and the Chairwoman orders Jody to go on a mission personally. The mission is to snipe Nadie, and then bring Elis back.

Jody smartly assessed the reason why the Chairwoman asks her to go on the mission personally. Off she goes to kill Nadie.

However, here’s where the seemingly pointless-as-usual minor plot comes (this is starting to feel like these side quests in Final Fantasy series).

Nadie and Elis are tricked by this bald old dude who gets them to trying to catch a vulture for him. Once again, they’re idiots. I mean, both of them can just drive away but they don’t. I thought they were trying to catch some food! But wait, there’s a reason for their stupidity this time, playing this “catch the vulture” game.

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ready.jpgchisai-no-fan-service.jpgThe idiot dance

However, what this “game” serves is to tell me that Elis wants to be free, which is not exactly new. What the game ends up doing is inspiring Jody to be free of the organization.

What I don’t quite like about this “game” is that it occupied most of the episode in order to unfold that one revelation.

One thing we learn aside from the game is that LA actually doesn’t kill anybody this time around (gasp)! And he bought flowers from a probably poor young flower girl! What the…?

Well, I guess he’s an Otaku (obsessed with Elis and not Anime) at heart. No Otaku wants to hurt women (see Nadeshico for Otaku’s attitude on women). XD

In any case, Ricardo and Lilio show up (gee, what a shocking surprise). Doug talks about freedom, and Jody makes the important decision about her path.

It all sounds so simple but this episode unfold the drama rather nicely, it’s just it took some time to get there. So,

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84% recommended for your daily anime diet. Even just for one episode.

Mononoke 1-4 – The lovechild of Mushishi and Gankutsuo on acid peddled by an old Japanese medicine vendor.

Mononoke-Title

Mononoke is a slightly more bizarre version of Mushishi based on traditional Japanese stories and with Gankutsuou-like visuals. We follow a mysterious character known only as the Medicine Seller around as he travels around feudal Japan uncovering tortured ghosts and putting them to rest. Each story plays out very much as a detective mystery, with the Medicine Seller searching for a ghost’s (Ayakashi) “Form, Truth, and Regret” in order to defeat it. Most of each episode is given over to how the ghost died, why it continues to kill, and how to appease it. While the “twist” is slightly obvious from the initial setup of each story, it’s still interesting watching the Medicine Seller work through the riddle and draw out the sad tale within.

Freaky 1

Freaky 2

The visual style is superbly executed, with bright, garish, varied colors everywhere. Seeing as these are traditional Japanese ghost stories, there are some very freaky visuals: faceless geisha, deformed ghost children, or gruesome dead skeleton animals. The character design is a bit odd, eccentric in appearance, and at times I was reminded of Aeon Flux. Scenes look like illustrations from a children’s book or a colorful ukiyo-e print. They may have been going for the latter effect, as all the images have a rough paper texture to them. As much as it’s the same illustration technique from Gankutsuo, it’s thoroughly unique.

CardsKabuki Framing

There are four episodes out to the series so far, two stories altogether. Each story is framed as a Kabuki play. The traditional Okawa drum is heard occasionally, scenes are often opened or ended with a wooden screen displaying the name of the story, and the Medicine Seller’s recaps sound convincingly like something one might hear coming back to their seat at the end of intermission.

Medicine SellerFlower

Mononoke combines aspects of two series I love, Mushishi and Gankutsuo, and traditional Japanese folk stories, however it doesn’t quite sit right with me. The horror facet of it is not frightening (certainly nowhere near something like Higurashi no Naku Koro ni or Shigurui) but combined with the riotous colors and the bizarre character designs, the tone of the show is a bit frenetic. With its story I cannot help but compare Mononoke to Mushishi and the seductive quality of its subtle, languorous storytelling that felt like stepping into a heady dream. On the whole Mononoke is a well-made series, one of the better ones out this season, but I’ll follow it casually and see if I warm up to its odd tone.

Ringtone from Mikuru’s song.

Let us say it together Mi…mi…mi…Mikuru beeeeaamu!

Claymore 21 – the true face and the true strength of Evil.

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It is hopeless.

What once was fool’s hope, has now turned into blood pool. The Blood pool of your comrades-in-arms.

There is no kindness left.

What once was kindness has turned to veiled malice toward a fellow human being.

Even after reading the spoilers I was shocked at the intensity of this episode. It was hard to grasp what I wanted to say, especially after seeing Jeane dying going after a demon god. That traumatizing agony of seeing a loyal warrior, a great companion, an honorable soldier perishing so easily at the hands of the top henchman of the Evil in the North.

(Tears and anguish were pretty appropriate.)

Continue reading

The Vault 02: Bubblegum Crisis OAV

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Explanation of the Vault series

Originally published on March 17, 2003. At one point, I sought to review everything I read, watched, and listened to, and did so via short reviews–first paragraph summary, second paragraph analysis/review. This is an example of one of my short reviews.

an Artmic/AIC production (1987-1990), 8 episodes

In post-apocalypse Mega Tokyo (just how many times has Tokyo been demolished and then rebuilt in anime?), the GENOM Corporation manufactures intelligent androids called “Boomers.” They were instrumental in the rebuilding of the city after the earthquake, but sometimes they get a little malicious and destructive . . . and the bumbling AD Police, the force assigned to stop rogue Boomers, usually can’t stop them. But the Knight Sabers–a mercenary group of four young women in advanced hardsuits–can. Led by briliant leader Sylia Stingray, the team battles errant Boomers and unveil some of the more sinister projects and conspiracies going on beneath the giant ediface of GENOM and its imposing tower.

This is the original OAV series, which has inspired several knockoffs (Bubblegum Crash, AD Police Force, and most recently Bubblegum Crisis 2040). On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a terribly original anime–“women in sexy uniforms stop malfunctioning and malicious robots” is what the plotline often boils down to–but there’s some attention to detail and storyline that sets it apart from the crowd. There are, for one, the Blade Runner references and homages–it’s pretty clear from the very first episode that this is really a homage to that great Ridley Scott film by the animators. Second is the animation quality–dated, perhaps, by current standards, but very high quality for its day. The action scenes are still quite well-directed, though so many animes have taken after BGC and stolen designs, concepts, and other aspects enough that watching it now makes it seem very familiar, much like reading quotes from Shakespeare that have now become cliches. As far as story and character go, the notable episodes are 5, 6, and 7, all which deal with some difficult decisions that the characters have to face. There’s some basic emotional resonance there absent from the rest of the series, which are otherwise run-of-the-mill action plots. Characterization-wise, most of the main girls fall into well-known “types” one finds in action films and anime, so there’s nothing to write home about in particular. Now, of course, one can’t talk about BGC without mentioning the music, which is for the most part top-notch, then-state-of-the-art-produced 80s J-pop. The melodies are better developed than most of the dreck that topped the charts in that decade, though age has inevitably made some tunes sound rather “cheesy.” But the music always fits the action on screen, and the DVD set includes some decent music videos for the songs (the non-live action ones, that is. The live concert videos, alas, are incredibly embarassing to watch now). BGC has, ultimately, become a classic and is well worth watching to examine the roots of many current anime tropes. You won’t watch it to be emotionally involved or intellectually provoked, but it’s lost little of its charm and fun over the years.


Michael is on hiatus for the remainder of August. The Vault series resurrects entries from his personal blog about anime, written from 2002-2006. Entries will appear in the series every other day.

Moetan 7 – some plot improvement and more anime reference.

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Anime references in shows that try to be funny aren’t new these days. Still, Moetan makes fun of the maho shojo stereotypes. But you know what? I think its selling points are still the delightful moe moe loli girls, and that awful English. Oh, and don’t forget the little detective Conan work and some love lost.

We see school festival, we see the newest idol sensation Alice-chan, and then we see theBunny Girl Alice. Gee, if the show made fun of the fact that maho shojo don’t really look different from before, then tell me why Ink-chan and Sumi-chan just can’t seem to figure out that Alice-chan is Bunny Maho Shojo Alice?

Ark-kun finally manages to do something truly smart – he figures out Alice’s tricks based on how well he knows Ink (damn, Ink knows he’s ecchi, but she keeps him inside her room anyways, huh).

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Beyond that, the usual stuff are there. Ink’s transformation (covered, damnit!), Sumi plays the friend who pretends to dislike Ink. The two adventures inside the school grounds and solve some puzzles, all of which really has something to do with how Alice feels about Ark-kun when he was a handsome magician, and she was a beautiful female magician – not a loli type. Or at least that’s what it looks like.

For the “awesome” English “lesson” at the end, just see the episode yourself. However, to save yourself sometime rather than watching this show – if that’s what you want, then go get a copy of the Moetan English book. This show is great for what it is – kind of an parody of other anime, and kind of a English based parody making fun of all stereotypes in the anime related world, but for anyone who’s new to anime this may prove to be rather dull and uninspired.

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71% to 86% recommend for your daily anime diet depending on your tastes.

Lucky Star 20 – talking about things I did as an Otaku living in Japan.

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It’s rather difficult for me to review Lucky Star, because unlike Claymore, it’s really talking about nothing, sometimes about Otaku-nothings. But anyway, finally something I can actually post something about.

In Japan, when I buy figurines at that small city (Fukuyama for anyone who cares to know), I used to just stare at them intensely and trust my instincts – which are pretty good, and I used to not get a lot of repeats. But then, I started getting some repeats. So what could I do?

I remember going to a fairly close bigger city (Okayama), and seeing some glass-wearing, greasy guy with a pony tail shaking the boxes, before he finally settling on one box and then it just clicked for me! Shaking the boxes can help determine the content!

When I went to Animate in Akiba, I saw a sign that made me laugh. The sign translates in English roughly said: Do not shake the boxes to determine the contents or we might ask you to leave (at least I know the first part of my translation is correct).

It was fun to see Konata talking about it in this episode. So that’s why when I went to some stores in bigger cities in Japan I see there are boxes taken in random order and not one next to each other. It’s like someone picked and chose.

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It was shocking to hear that she said some people can even do the “shaking” method with collectible cards…O____o that’s scary….

Other parts of the episode have usual banter and fun. There’s a little discussion about how Otaku men often wish to find Otaku women (very true), but it doesn’t seem like Otaku women want to find Otaku men (because women are plain picky and often demands more dream-like qualities XD). I really like the Fist of the North Star reference, because I grow up in the 80’s as a kid. More Japanese specific humor follows.

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A blatant Haruhi promotional fanservice…I mean a Haruhi “commerical” is placed in it, and I was reminded that one of the bloggers on animeblogger.net said that Lucky Star is like an informerical for Haruhi. Sometimes that just seems so true. In the lucky channel of this episode, Koizumi from Haurhi, shows up and plays as himself for a few-second role.

At the end, Hirashi goes crazy again and plays a cheerleader this time with pon-pons. I don’t find him funny anymore; I think he’s rather annoying.

Other things I did as an Otaku in Japan (that Konata talked about) – buying the second book of the stack even though the first one looks perfectly nice and clean. Buying a lot of a certain kind of food products to collect a certain item (I already forgot what it is and I had to throw the stupid things away 2 years ago because I moved to Taiwan), buying a manga/book/magazine just because of the little figuring that it gives (often sucks).

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Anyway, as a comedy, so far I don’t favor this over Azumanga Daioh, and also a lot of references in this show are still beyond my grasp simply because I’m American and not Japanese. However, I love this show fir its specific brand of quirkiness. To try to give this a fair rating, I’d say:

88% recommended for your daily anime diet. I added 6 points for the work of the seiyuus. This show is not medicre, but without these people voice acting and without its Otaku references, I would not find it funny at all.

P.S. Still reading? YOU ARE ALREADY DEAD! XD

P.S. No you’re not. That was the First of North Star reference.

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