Tag Archives: Anime Reviews

Summer Of The Flesh-Eating Otaku?

And so I finally get off my duff after some expected reminiscing, and whatnot to take a look at what some consider to be two of the summer season’s most promising shows. Say what I will about the current state of the industry, it at least feels like someone’s finally taking steps. That said, it is as if these steps are none too different from last seasons, or the one before it, albeit with a slightly more fierce cadence than usual. It is pretty known here, as well as on other writings elsewhere that I’m a pretty large fan of the horror genre. Growing up large with Lovecraft, King, & Poe was a massive part of growing up literate for me while the visual was defined by names like Romero, Carpenter, Cronenberg, Hooper & Fulci. So upon noticing that these two well-spoken-of shows embraced elements of western horror, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. (The ex-darkling in me has been ready for a horror-anime fix for quite some time.) Result-wise, I would say that the shows so far give off mixed signals that may be more economic than qualitatively bankrupt.

First on the roster is A-1’s supernatural series, Occult Academy that pits a petulant teen against the forces residing within the mysterious private school her recently deceased father curated as principal. Right away, the initial episode tinkers with multiple expectations to deliver a hint of fun to come. Not content with spelling out just how many fringe, occult, supernatural concepts will be toyed with, the initial episode is riddled with in-gags aimed at the cinephiles out there. (Notice the transporter right out of Cronenberg’s The Fly, The tower from Lang’s Metropolis, the nod to Evil Dead 2, as well as other benign references laced all over.) Introducing the story in the year, 1999 is a novel touch that readily hints at even time travel is a pretty cool way to keep us viewers off balance in what to expect,which is always a plus.

Regarding the central lead in Maya Kumashiro, she’s deceptively interesting as the scripting hints at a very intimate arc in the making. Being reunited with her estranged father after his death, the series seems to be playing up the gaps in their relationship as she continues to investigate the campus in the name of undoing the bad in their mutual pasts. This mixed with a labyrinthian campus, harboring some clearly nasty secrets is a pretty good setup for a character such as she. (even if I kept saying to myself, “if you’re going to run around a castle-like structure from monsters, please -TAKE OFF THE SHOES!) Even if the supporting cast seems to take a big backseat to her, it’s likely going to need balancing out as the series introduces her partner & comedic foil in time-leaping Uchida. The esoterics of the world,and the at-times kooky, yet tasteful humor make for an interesting high-wire act rare in series of this ilk. And Takahiro Chiba’s unique character designs only add more flavor to an already beguiling mix of character study & genre comedy. (also worthy of amusement is hearing bishounen seiyuu legend, Takehito Koyasu as the portly dowser, JK!)

And then came the zombies….

Okay, before sharing some thoughts on Madhouse’s High School Of The Dead, some primer words.

I’ve grown up a bit of a zombie fanatic. Few horror icons are as applicable as the zombie. In many ways, George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead is a penultimate blueprint for the apocalyptic drama. And in the earliest incarnations were a bleak & brilliant means of summoning the best and worst of human nature when placed in a pressure cooker. And when his sequel, Dawn Of The Dead shocked the world with its expanded vision of a thoughtless, self-consuming society finding solace in consumerism, the zombie movie was no longer just a brilliant metaphor, it became a license to print money and spawn a generation of mash-ups and imitators. Whether it was Fulci’s brutal Zombie series, the “zombies with guns(!!)” saga that is Nightmare City, the genie was out of the bottle. And it wasn’t until Dan O’ Bannon put a wily spin on matters with his Return Of The Living Dead that the trope had found irony and was quelled for several years as the stuff of comedy, and sent packing back into its well deserving grave. (see Peter Jackson’s Braindead for more proof)

That was until Danny Boyle’s contagion nightmare, 28 Days Later & Edgar Wright’s ingenious Shaun Of The Dead that the zombie genre experienced a sudden explosion to heights never before experienced by horror film in possibly a generation. It was even instrumental in bringing Mr. Romero back into the undead fray with new (yet terminally weaker) installments to his Dead saga. The advent of evolving, and even at times “running” zombies had ravaged the cinemas, inspired books, and slews of online activity unlike anything I had ever witnessed. So it felt like a (……..won’t say it)…natural thing for the flesh/brain eating masses to invade the anime world. Also funnier still, are my memories of a company president, and his love of american zombie flicks. This love leading to the creation of an internally made manga featuring the entire crew within the all-too-familiar confines of a zombeh holocaust.(* the archives of this little seen comic has since been lost in time, but is said to exist in places not the internet. If I could find it, it would most definitely be shared) But his love of Romero-isms (confined to an enclosed space with strangers, and low on ammunition as hordes of the creatures amass outside like oceans of motorized flesh & bone) was the stuff of office legend, which makes the release of both the manga and now anime release of Highschool Of The Dead that much more amusing to me. (“ahhh…they finally heard his prayers?”)

And so why is the show no-more than a middling parody/graftfest of anime cliches & stereotypes? The problems that follow this are of a more obvious nature when considering that the illustrated world has already experienced perhaps the pitch-perfect incarnation in ‘Kirkman & Moore’s long-running masterpiece The Walking Dead. Then again, perhaps this is why the producers here have decided on eschewing the seriousness of the genre, and goes full-bore with instant gratification at nearly every turn. From stock characters(including ditzy dead-weight ones that would sooner get you gored in minutes flat), to awkwardly staged fan service galore with the female characters, the show makes no bones about its trashy intentions. Coming from famed scribe, Yosuke Kuroda, one would expect more from a show taking on such a beloved staple of horror geekdom, but alas the exercise’s issues feel more desperately economic than a matter of being a straight-up misfire.

And yet, it is still a watchable show, in that oh-so base pleasure sort of manner in line with so many other shows of the last decade. But a part of me still mulls in the could-have-beens, like a post-Battle Royale work, where modern Japan is faced with the best representation of it’s own self-destructive nature. Now that would have been incredible. But instead, we have a zombie army invading yet another post KOR universe variation of high school crushes, and staid types(complete with well-endowed school doctor with all the grey matter of a gnat.)And the references keep coming as we even experience the already old “noble friend must kill infected buddy before he becomes one” trope, and even a song on the soundtrack resembles John Murphy’s classic track, In The House, In A Heartbeat.

But even then, the series feels as if it wants to function as a horror piece as well as a parody of tired anime tropes. Regardless, the show thus far works less than it should in this regard. So far, it has all the feel of a post-Romero gore fest, but lacks the visceral punch necessary to make it flow, nor does it have a clear agenda as to what the zombies represent this time out. At least in the west and in the 2000’s, it made a certain arcane sense before it just became another means of making green off of ravenous fanchildren. For all we know, in HOTD,… it’s representing the endless hordes of otaku, incapable of consuming anything new or inventive. Busting down doors for new renditions of exactly the same song.

Perhaps the otaku apocalypse is finally at hand? I hope so.

(btw-The Walking Dead are almost here!)

Rebuild Revisited: “another version of the truth”

In the years I’ve spent writing about the anime medium, it has never been far away. The Neon Genesis Evangelion legacy is something akin to holy skrit in fan circles, as much as it is anathema to them. It’s the kind of show that can make or break you depending on the you that is watching it. And for my part, it has remained as one of the pinnacles of visual media for its boldness, means to thrill, and heartbreaking sincerity. So when I feel the need to further examine a more high-ticket, CG-drowned take on what was ostensibly one of my favorite shows of all time, you best believe that it is going to come with a little added baggage.

My love for the original television series knows few bounds. Far beyond the ruffage of endless message board debates, strange theories, and online fan one-upmanship, this was a story that despite all the problems plaguing it, connected with so many on a human level rarely witnessed in any kind of television series. It felt as if many of us had been shaken to the bones by it, and remained unsure as of what it was that stepped over our graves. And likely the older the anime fan you were, the heavier the whole thing felt. Evangelion was that perfect typhoon of concept & emotion, brought to a scathing boil by the tatters of feeling most human. And yet so many adhered to a need for mathematical cohesiveness where little of it was truly necessary. EVA was just that perfect melody at that perfect time when the notes seemed most desperate for change. A notion that possibly rings more loudly than ever, daring us to look deeper into infinity for inspiration.

It was a rally call to souls in need of affirmation, only to allow it to be recognized sans any real chance in taking the first steps. This is where Rebuild comes in.

ATTENTION: This Mostly Spoiler-Free Post Contains Some Delicate Speculation On Rebuild Of Evangelion, as well as on the original Neon Genesis Evangelion series and films. (You’ve Been Warned)

Continue reading Rebuild Revisited: “another version of the truth”

Film Review:The Disappearance Of Haruhi Suzumiya

A child of the 80s, I grew up in time to become an instant fan of Robert Zemeckis’s Back To The Future. A film as much about self-discovery as it ever is about tinkering with alternate dimensions. The adventures of a young man who’s strange fortune lands him 30 years before, to the days of his parents, only to endanger the future consumation of their marriage and thereby threatening his own existence was a brilliant throwback to the best of Capra. It’s A Wonderful Life for the Reagan-era is not too far a stratch for a film dealing with alternate realities, amidst a cinematically mundane setting. It also worked largely due to its colorful cast of characters, hair-pulling predicaments, and epic music. But the film’s core appeal at least to me was the core relationship between wizard & student. Why mention this uber mainsream offering from Hollywood? Because it was the first film to come to mind upon watching The Disappearance Of Haruhi Suzumiya. A film not too far removed from the memories of Marty McFly, albeit in a far more reflexively meta tone with just a touch of, dare I say it? Melancholy.

Continue reading Film Review:The Disappearance Of Haruhi Suzumiya

Wintermuted’s a “Filthy, Shameful Spring!” Peek

Okay, so its time to spend a few moments out of my usual musings about anime’s past, and take a peek at some of this new season’s bigger television offerings. Based upon word-of-mouth, as well as the occasional read-up, these choices only nail a few that I’ve been picking out of the running. Again, most of these are based upon what I hoped would stand out among this season’s heap. So if I missed anything, it is either because it didn’t really give me reason to be curious, or it’s just those pesky time constraints again.

So let’s have at it, shall we?

Hoo, boy….

There’s something about Akiyuki Shinbo anime that just doesn’t connect with me. I have tried to absorb the works of whom many consider to be the savior of anime hipsters everywhere, only to give up in disappointment. This is unusual for me, as I’ve often been a large defender for directors who break a sweat, and do something new with the medium. And yet, there’s something to Shinbo’s arsenal of wild takes, cultural references, and constant monologuing that just neutralizes any molecule of enjoyment for me. Oh sure, Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei was a riot at times, but that was merely due to the source material’s razor sharp wit.

So when I think of Arakawa Under The Bridge, I can’t help but feel relieved that it isn’t nearly as obtuse as Bakemonogatari, but remains as distant as ever.

Continue reading Wintermuted’s a “Filthy, Shameful Spring!” Peek

Bridging The Gap: The Spectre Of Beautiful Death

And to the faithful, death the gate of life. - John Milton
And to the faithful, death the gate of life. - John Milton

WARNING: This spiel contains potential spoilers for Superdimension Fortress Macross, as well as IDEON.

Okay. Fess up time. I love brevity in storytelling. Some creations go on far too long for my taste, despite the public’s often endless rabble-rousing for more. There’s just something to me that speaks greater volumes by leaving the viewer/reader with the faintest hint of more outside the page/frame. More often than not, the delivery of more tends to leave me disapointed, and more convinced that things would have been better off left behind, while new mythologies formed. That said, I am a big fan of when characters exit in the most dramatic way possible. That’s right. I love it when characters die. And die well. Call it sadistic, call it what you will. There’s just no way to describe the value of a good, wrenching character exit to throw the protagonists’ future into greater uncertainty.

Continue reading Bridging The Gap: The Spectre Of Beautiful Death

Jokes, Caprices, and Coincidences (Durarara! Thus Far..)

They were being driven to a prison, through no fault of their own, in all probability for life. In comparison, how much easier it would be to walk to the gallows than to this tomb of living horrors!

-Nellie Bly

Finally strapped myself in, and took a nice deep dive into the hellish wonders of Durarara! And for this reviewer, it can be shared with no uncertain issue, that it is easily one of the most consistently interesting series this year. As much as I’d love to spend the whole of this post to merely puncture myself to incessantly gush at any who’ll gawk about my positive feelings about the series, it only felt right to at first give a smal glimpse into what it is precisely that keeps me transfixed, drawing me further into its surreal comic nightmare.

Continue reading Jokes, Caprices, and Coincidences (Durarara! Thus Far..)

Anime Diet’s Hidden Gems – Reviews, Discussions and More

Anime Diet Presents: Best Kept Secret of Anime Diet’s archive, part 1.

Looking for previously unread articles? Then our 10+ hours of work combing through 147 pages to find these little gems is definitely worth every second! Enjoy these as our year-end gift to you!

Reviews:


    Alien Nine: Utter Alienation

    Alteil

    Akira

    Asura Cryin’ 1 Review

    Black Lagoon

    Boogiepop Phantom

    Bubblegum Crisis OAV

    Review: Byousoku 5cm–The Color of Regret

    Cencoroll Review

    Claymore Review

    Code – E

    Eureka Seven: Decompression

    GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class

    Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society Review

    Hatsukoi Limited Review

    Hayate no Gotoku 01

    Jin Roh

    Kaiba Review

    Kannagi Review

    Kobato Impression

    Les Miserables – Shoujo Cosette 1

    Lucky Star Review

    Mahoromatic

    Myself; yourself Review

    Noein Review

    Review: School Days–The Wages of Sin

    Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei s1 impression

    Serial Experiment Lain

    Seto no Hanayome

    Shingetsutan Tsukihime

    Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time)

    Welcome to the NHK

    The Zen of Eureka Seven

    Zero no Tsukaima – Futatsuki Kishi Review

Commentaries/Discussions:


    Aversion and hikikomori

    Civil Liberties Continue to Crumble

    Cyberpunk anime – the past, the present, the future (?) Part 1.

    Cyberpunk anime – past, present, future (?) Part 2.

    Cyberpunk anime – past, present, future (?) Part 3.

    Cyberpunk anime – past, present, future (?) Part 4

    Cyberpunk anime – past, present, future (?) Part 5 – Toward the Future I call the “Individulity Project”.

    Discussion on making Japanese title into English

    Discussion on making Japanese title into English pt.2

    Fan Service – What I think…

    Face Off: Ray and Mike Heap Praise on Kurozuka

    Face Off: Ray and Mike on Gunbuster vs. Diebuster (Part 1)

    Face Off: Ray and Mike on Gunbuster vs. Diebuster (Part 2)

    Face Off: Ray and Mike Try to Figure Out Kurozuka

    Horror Anime Selection

    Hayate no Gotoku 21 – Lead Me Home

    Is Anime Deep?

    Is Anime Deep, pt.2?

    Love and Purity in Ponyo

    Mortality in anime and manga

    Persona: Trinity Soul–the awesomest title EVAR

    The cancer that is killing Bleach

Miscellaneous:

    Adventures in Blogosphere: Episode 2, Attack of the Domos

    Claymore 18,19 Parody – The Chaotic War of Cirumcision in the North

    Do You Ever Talk Back to Your Anime?

    So if 86.5% of Japanese do not like lolicons…

    Soundtracks that are Better than the Show

    Weird Soundtrack Cravings

    Yaoi doujin artist arrested.

Interviews:


    AX 2008 Press Junket Interview: Shokotan

    EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW! A Night With The Pillows.

Nyan Koi! – Episode 5 – Commence Love Rectangle

This would have been a review of Episodes 5 and 6, however I wasn’t able to view Episode 6 in time.  My apologies.

If you recall from my last article, I really enjoyed episodes 3 and 4.   I’m happy to report episode 5 is also quite good.  This episode really gets the romantic comedy juices flowing as we now have three girls vying for poor cursed Junpei’s attention, while there is only one of them whose attention he really longs for.  Classic (Clichéd?) harem anime plot device I know, but still fun and it really works here because all three girls are drastically different.

The problem with harem anime is that rarely by the end of the series is there a clear victory.  Sure there is always a obvious leader in the race for the boy’s heart, but most of the time the anime ends with the more than one girl still clinging to him in hopes he will choose them over his destined love (Tenchi, Girls Bravo, etc).  I’m sure most studios do this to spare the viewers from watching a character they love getting their heart broken, but still by the end of the series I want resolution dammit!

Junpei however doesn’t have this problem, which is a welcome surprise.  While he is too shy to actually spit out his words and tell Mizuno that is likes her, he has no qualms about being blunt and telling this fact to Nagi while apologizing and saying he is flattered to her own feelings about him.

Another good episode, I don’t want to spoil much about it.  I’ll just say this episode does wonders in expanding the relationship between Mizuno and Junpei.  And of course it ends on a cliffhanger… D’oh!

Also no cat requests in this episode, but it is a two-parter, so maybe they are in episode 6.

Grade – B+

– DC

Bridging The Gap’s “Oh, The Horror!”Halloween Countdown!

Growing up in the latter half of the 70s horror movie boom which included such high profile works such as The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn Of The Dead, Halloween, and others, my childhood was well-versed in the art of nightmare weaving before the onset of slashers reduced the format into scant numbers, and dopey kill counting. So it was especially important that in the latter years that I searched for scares that matched those that affected me so strongly in my younger years. Thankfully, through the video age, it became easy to see that there were others throughout the world who felt similarly. Who knew that the art of scary was more than being hacked apart by a zombified goalie, or a wisecracking bundle of foam latex. They knew that horror could run deeper than that. And appropriately, Japan has often had a well attuned frequency between the natural and supernatural worlds, making it an ideal place to explore the blackest corners of the human mind.

With only days remaining until the veil between worlds fades yet again , it felt appropriate to go ahead and share a few horror favorites from the hallowed vaults. And since there’s no real shortage of great works, I’ll be making picks from both the manga and anime worlds. And besides, nothing suggests the creeping approach of winter better than a good, scary story to read at bedtime.

Keep in mind that these are merely my opinion, and am quite aware of the vastness of great horror works available. Just sharing ones I’d love to see more folks embrace over time.

So let’s get into it, shall we?

the prophetess, Hinoto
the prophetess, Hinoto

Continue reading Bridging The Gap’s “Oh, The Horror!”Halloween Countdown!

Mike’s treasure cove full of his goodies…

NO, girls, not that kind of goodies. I’m talking about his old reviews, which were some of the best non-fiction pieces he had written. Click on a pic below:

honey1 vlcsnap-00174 vlcsnap-00005 byousoku0 renmei vlcsnap-14747889 vlcsnap-10677851

Enjoy and remember to leave comments for each if you haven’t already!