Tag Archives: fantasy

Diary of an Anime Lived: The Slice-of-Life Age, Part 1

Or, a caricature of how anime has evolved in the last 15 years.

Today, many of the most popular, acclaimed anime TV series are labeled “slice-of-life” shows: tragicomedies about the ups and downs of ordinary life like Honey and Clover, or quirky, plot-light ensemble comedies like Azumanga Daioh or K-ON!. It’s quite a shift from the kind of SF/fantasy anime that were being held up as exemplars in the late 1990s, back when I first became an anime fan, and it’s a shift that seems to track with the way my own life has changed since then.

Part 1: F&SF&E(va)
I have been a fantasy and science-fiction fan all of my life, and I started writing my own stories in those genres in elementary school. Being a stereotypical kind of nerd, complete with the thick glasses and the social awkwardness, the book that most moved and reassured me was Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Ender was both brutalized and brutal, a child praised and cursed with his gifts and the responsibilities they carried, and unable to relate to other children normally as a result. Card, at his best, portrayed characters with both compassion and hard-edged honesty about their flaws, particularly in the sequel, Speaker For The Dead. Despite my voracious appetite for novels by David Eddings, Terry Brooks, and Isaac Asimov, I never could find another SF writer who quite managed that balance in my younger years. His stories were not just cool, but moving, and true to the human condition as I understood then.

Would the Ender's Game manga look like this?

My attraction to anime was, at first, an extension of my love of SF and fantasy. Record of Lodoss Wars was actually the first anime I watched all the way through—and despite its rather elementary plot, it fulfilled my appetite for a different take on traditional Western fantasy. Ghost in the Shell of course fit the cerebral SF mold, not too unlike stories by Arthur C. Clarke or the movie Blade Runner. Akira at least had spectacle and the post-apocalyptic mood.

As many of you know, though, none of those shows captured my heart the way Neon Genesis Evangelion did. The words I used back then was: “this is a Japanese Ender’s Game.” On some forum in the deep recesses of the Internet, in 2001-2002, there are posts by me arguing the very same. While Ender and Shinji are very different characters, the situations they are thrust within are very similar: world-consequential battles where they have little say in their fates. Shinji, though, was much more “Asian” than Ender, the product of the parental neglect and tyranny endemic to many Asian and Asian-American households. It was easy for me to identify with him, and more closely than I could with Ender. And Eva at its best also had the same mix of brutality and compassion which I found so compelling in Card’s novels, though perhaps Anno was harder on his protagonists than Card ultimately was. There was a sense that he was expiating his own sins and trying to warn otaku of going down the same road in the original series and movies, a raw confessionalism that the polished remakes seem to lack.

I needed that hardness, that unflinching glance at the depths back then. Catharsis isn’t supposed to be painless. It felt like a new experience, to see a ”cartoon” do the sort of thing that Ender’s Game and Speaker For the Dead had done for me years before. And while it was new, it was also deeply continuous with my love of SF/F. Anime wasn’t really a separate thing for me then. It was one more notch alongside my copies of A Canticle for Leibowitz and Lord of the Rings and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

My voracious search for information about anime began around that time, and I discovered an entire world of anime and gaming that drew upon Eva’s well of dark, psychological SF. There was the story of Final Fantasy VII, Serial Experiments: Lain, and the later homage RahXephon. There were parodies, like Martian Successor Nadesico and Vandread. And if I wasn’t in the mood for SF, most anime series contained some fantastical elements, and not necessarily of the Western medieval variety like in Slayers or Lodoss Wars. Even the romances, which I was just beginning to discover, had overt fantasy elements: Ah My Goddess!, Kimagure Orange Road, Video Girl Ai, to name a few.

There were, in short, few shows that had no fantasy or SF elements on the radar of my fandom then. Little did I know that in those days, from 1999-2003—my college years, and the first period of my fandom—the ground had already begun to shift in the anime landscape.

To be continued in part 2: the hinge years


This is part of 21stcenturydigitalboy’s ongoing Diary of an Anime Livedseries, which is a blogosphere-wide series of articles about the intersection of anime and personal life.

 

Legend of Legendary Heroes has deep stuff

(Oh god, in order to let the search engine find this article faster, I came up with such a lame ass title! XD)

Yes, I can hear your screams; “DEEP STUFF? NO, REALLY?” I guess I’m being Captain Obvious and you heard this one coming a mile away. But yes, this show is deep and interesting.

I was skeptical as first regarding the mix of comedy and seriousness, which works well for Gintama. But for this kind of show with fantasy elements, it would be very easy to go over the edge into silly humor, or become way too serious by taking itself too seriously. One of the most successful fantasy shows that I watched was Scrapped Princess (what a title, eh). It was serious, tightly paced with a focused plot that was slowly unraveled. The characters and plots were interesting enough. I don’t remember any of the seiyuu names but I remember they had good chemistry. I enjoyed the show a lot. It did take itself too seriously.

As for this one, it’s certainly got emotional depth. The stuff about exploiting kids is a sure draw for sympathy but it’s not over done. As for the 3 main characters, I find Sion the most interesting of the 3.

As the political center, he needs to master enough trickery to fend off these nobles while keeping himself in power. He’s partially controlled by a clan that eye’s the situation from afar but really holds the most power in the empire – the clan can kill him if he fails to meet its expectations. So there is a sword above his head, which creates tension within him. He’s desperate for good but he has to be crafty and constantly work with evil. He keeps secrets from all his advisors and friends in order to perform his balance act and pretend to be supportive of the nobles. However, as the reality sinks in, he blames himself more and more for any failure, including the death of a trusted servant and friend (that was quite heart-breaking to see). Hiring the guy who controls the shadow could very well be his first step into doing evil. He’s struggling with how much he wants to control. In order to bring good to all citizens of Roland and not have to worry about other nobility-controlled nation invading, it seems that he has to try to take over the entire land, after all. But that would ultimately put him in the same place as many dictators and nobles before him. He set out not to be like them.

He sends his friends on a secret mission but allows the dark advisor to clash with them. He then hides the truth about the identities of either side from either side. Things untold often becomes the downfall of good friendships.

Make no mistake, what Sion faces is a vastly tangled situation set in the mire and there are enough temptation to walk into and stay in the darkside. Perhaps it’s necessary, after all, he has talented people who will help him either way. Or does he? His promise to Ryner is to do good for the people. But as his domain as well as the amount of trouble grows, will he stay true to his promise or will he take the dark path for the sake of achieving the goal in his life time?

Like Captain Obvious said, this is deep stuff. I’m simply surprised that they schedule something so intelligent and intriguing in the summer line-up. I say it’s a must see if you like intrigue and all.

You could watch this on Funimation or Hulu. See opinions on it in the Crunchyroll forum.

Review: The Sacred Blacksmith ep 07 – Questions

Why are there the demon swords? Why were they made? Or rather, who made them and how they came about?

Apparently, there are different demon swords and it is rather interesting to observe why some of them are able to transform into people and others can’t.

Even as a psudo-filler episode, there are questions about the origin of weapons and the reason why Charolette is working so hard and in extension, what is the meaning behind her hardship. We get hints that she never lived like a real princess during her life up to now.

(Of course if you already read the novel you would know why)

The response of the empire seems to be actually reasonable but in the anime, we are seeing more the behind the scenes plots and one has to wonder the role Siegfried plays in this. In my opinion, if Charolette and CO. really have no importance whatsoever, the empire would not ask for their return and execution. They could very well ignore them.

The show is progressing rather slowly and almost following the pacing of the novel to the T, which means that it’s not going to go very far if this season is 13 episodes (remember anime used to be 26 episodes). I’m impressed by the acting but not so much with the fantasy-light settings and the character personalities. A red-haired girl is brash and refuses to admit her feelings is very stereotypical.

Finally, the black lady who transforms into the huge sword is played by Yukino Satsuki; how far she has fallen from her prime! I suspect it’s because she’s not good looking and young. Today’s anime industry has this problem – the younger and the cuter the better, never mind real voice acting skills. I mean, really, do any of the girls today compare with the veterans of old (Megumi, Kotono, Hisakawa Aya, et el)? Even  Rierie seems to be playing tiny roles these days. Hell, even Nabame is falling into the camp of secondary roles.

I didn’t notice that many animation breakdown. But for whateer odd reason, I’m just not that impressed with this fantasy-lite anime.

Continue reading Review: The Sacred Blacksmith ep 07 – Questions

A Certain Scientific Railgun 04 – the curse of the undressing Otaku

Just about everything is turning out quite different from the manga.

It’s a pleasant surprise though, because it’s a different type of fun. We’re not abruptly introduced to Mikoto’s arch enemy/love interest Toma,  instead, a little bit of intrigue is thrown in and we start to wonder a little about the so-called Academy City Urban Legends. But of course, the main reason for talking about that in this episode is to introduce two important people – love interest (no it’s not a spoiler), and that strange researcher Kiyama Harumi, played by Major Kusanagi I mean Tanaka Atsuko.

Like I said, so far I like the changes in character dynamics and how there are increased interactions and that we’re not suddenly introduced to an important character. The characters play off each other, which adds a wonderful energy flow through the show. It’s funnier and quirkier and even more charming than the manga.

This introduction is like an ambush; for those of you who doesn’t know the story or hasn’t read the manga or the novel, I believe it will be a wonderful surprise later.

You know, I like Kiyama Harumi already, I mean what a sensible woman (lol), if it’s too damned hot, just take off your blouse! You’re wearing a bra anyway! And if your skirt is soiled, just take it off! You’re wearing pantyhose and pantsu anyway! Fuck, why does it make perfect sense to me? XD

Tanaka Atsuko is a wonderful seiyuu; she can play sexy, serious, tough, sarcastic, silly, out-of-it…Just about anything. She will be fun to watch. Kuroko is damn funny and it’s priceless comedy gold when she shakes Uiharu like a madwoman.

All in all, good stuff abound.

Queen’s Blade s2 05 – less tits, more plots

It is with much regret that I must report that Queen’s Blade s2’s T&A count is way down compared with last season.

It is also with much regret that I must report that when plots are going, tits aren’t showing. Or at least very little of them shows.

…So what? I’m actually enjoying the show nonetheless! I like seeing women on screen better than seeing men. Feel my stroking powerrrrr!
Thank God there are almost no male characters in this wonderfully girl-powered show. The only recurring characters are Cat-Staff, who’s quite funny, and Reina’ Dad, who practically never has a face.

The fight between Cattleya and Airi begs the question: does the Queen has something against Cattleya and hubby? What is it then? It’s obvious that Aledra is trying to kill two birds with one stone, or in this case, two chicks with one stone gaze (har har). What ends up is a touching scene of Lana fighting and distracting the queen and inevitably helping Airi, who turns out to have a soft spot after all.

They go back to Menace’s “lair” and she utters fan service cooing voice and gets an oil message. In last season, we never got to see her breasts much (not enough), and this time, still no bare boob messages and pinching the nipples and all that…Oh my, this article is now rated NC-17 for suggestive language.

Menace teases Airi and of course she is embarrassed. We get to see Airi’s cute side.

Reina? Oh, since Cattleya is gone, Ymir decides to take Reina’s sword up to notches unknown. Ymir realizes that Cattleya and hubby’s forging skills, which she termed, curiously, “Alchemist” skills, is superior than hers. However, she realizes that she has a way to add her own skills to it. So Reina gets the traditional hero’s power up item. I wonder if the sword will be Excalibur (see Fate Stay Night Anime)?

Surprisingly good action and actually intriguing plots for a show like this. But of course, I watched it for T&A, and inevitably, with more plots, there is less T&A.

Onto the next episode – Irma VS Risty.

Risty’s outfit looks better but I still think she’s an odd choice for that plot line.

Railgun 03 – Marvelous!

Well, the plot isn’t anything super exciting but it was laced with a little bit suspense. Who has the ability to be invisible? Out of possible suspects, most of them have alibi, and that one person doesn’t even have the right ability level, so who could it be?

Of course this is not a suspense show so we find out soon enough. However, last episode and this episodes serves to build up the arc about people able to use ability beyond their original capability. In the manga, two volumes and we reached the center of the conspiracy, here, I’m thinking they will stretch it out as much as possible. That said, it actually helps with these episodic stuff to see the cute adventures of the 4 girls. The group dynamics is quite different than the manga.

The thing to look for is the animation. The scene with the rain hitting the bus window is realistic and I feel it probably required a lot of work to make it look so real. Not only that, but the city is detailed and beautiful, a marvel to behold. It is rather weird that they live in “Paris” even though they’re in Japan, but it is simply wonderful to see the buildings, structures, statues, clock, bridge and all the other landmarks so well animated. The shot selections are also great. It feels just a tiny little bit like a Ghibli work. Except of course, here, computers probably helped a lot.

That matters not to me. I was enjoying the upscale look so much that I wish I was a girl attending that school and living in that city. Marvelous!

Queen’s Blade S2 04 – Bet ya didn’t think…

That the pacing would work. Oh yeah, through the eye of this anime veteran, the pacing in this episode worked out just fine. Not only that, but they didn’t have too many commentaries on the side. When they shifted the view to a character outside of the ring, it’s usually because something important is going to happen.

This show maintains its high quality of drawing of female’s bodies and for you GAR loving girls out there, a well portioned body of Cattleya’s husband. But I’ll save that for later.

Most of us don’t like a character that preaches or shouts out silly one-liners all the time. However, Alleyne simply makes me smile. I guess yeah, it is because she’s actually freaking hot underneath that cape and that hat. She’s also a bad ass and fights just as well as she evaluates others’ fighting performance. An harsh sounding elf girl with some smarts and that body, she is definitely the focus of this episode. as faps are heard around the world, she fights her way to a near victory, but alas, silly butt naked Nowa loses the day for both of them.

I don’t really hate Nowa for it, however, because after all, she wears thick socks and is butt naked, not to mention she is a really inexperienced fighter not in the main plot. It’s no wonder that she’d lose! But that cute butt is a nice enough compensation.

Echidna is her usual sex-predator self, thirsting and teasing Nowa and that was intense. But the best part was the fighting animation. The people drew the stuff really put a lot of thoughts into weapon movements and clashes and all.

The script writers really did they job with pacing. As the fight between Alleyne & Nowa VS Echidna and Irma ends (with Irma acting like a tsundere), the plot goes on and thickens a little. But of course, because this is Enter the Dragon, female warrior edition, we come to more battles, this time featuring our main character, Reina/Leina VS Ymir, as well as some of our favorites, Cattleya VS Airi.

I personally find Lana not as necessary, but for a kid character, he’s not annoying, because he doesn’t say a lot! I think that’s a huge plus since I don’t like kids.Also, some people needs to see a strong mom-character with a pet shota. That’s just how it goes.

With some ties and entanglements played out, we come to the fights that aren’t really significant…Or are they? Perhaps Airi knows something about the whereabouts of Cattleya’s husband and maybe Reina, who holds the sword forged by Cattleya’s husband, will have some bones to pick with Ymir, or rather, the opposite is true.

In any case, I’m surprised the pacing and drama played out well enough despite being a fighting season. So much so that I watched the episode twice despite the low level of fan service!

Additional notes: How can you NOT love Kugimi’s show stopper singing performance? Mellow mellow!

The Sacred Blacksmith 01 – Reality Check!

For those who want to know my impression of the novels this show is based on, it’s here. But for anyone who wants to dive into the show, here we go:

Did you know that Katana or any other legendary swords really CANNOT cut through other blades in a clean slice? Do you think I’m kidding?

In reality, a blade with a higher RC scale; let’s say 63, can definitely shave the metal off iron or steel blades with lower RC, let’s say 42. But slice another blade in half neatly like a heated knife through butter? Are you fucking serious?

All right, all right. Since this is a fantasy story, we’ll let it go. Now, onto the merit of the show itself.

There is enough realism in the fights (bear in mind that I have NEVER studied sword fighting techniques) and the animation is definitely up to standards. In addition, There is enough intrigue, not unlike classic Fantasy stories, that makes one ponder what happens next. However, because this is based on a light novel, I’d advice you not to expect too much background details or in depth cultural aspects and the rest, if you’re into that.

Perhaps I’m too harsh. Next, of course Fujimura Ayumu, the seiyuu behind Cecily Cambell, is really cute. Not to mention fresh and young. It was kind of funny seeing the old guy checking out her breast armor/plate/whatever-armorish-thing that perfectly conforms to the shape of her breasts, but other than that, it’s the same old “I’ll protect the city and even you!” Thingy. As in the novel, she has guts but no skills to match. That’ll change over time, but in the first episode, her efforts are cliched and laughable to an extend.

Luke is sullen like Squall Lionheart in FF8 (US version number) and acts not too different. Enough said.

Lisa is cheerful, innocent and a big mouth. Not unlikable but I’m neutral at the moment.

Overall, the first episode turned out like what I expected: Needs a stronger script, better seiyuu and more powerful something to spice everything up.

Again, my impression after reading three volumes of the novel is here.

Additional notes: the actual vocabulary for forging a traditional Japanese sword is used as the chant for making a magical sword. I found that kind of lame that the author doesn’t even try to make a real spell. Maybe it’s because I know too much about swords but sheesh. These aren’t magical chanting words; they’re just sword making steps!

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun01 – refreshing!

I read two volumes of the manga beforehand and while the manga was interesting, they did not impress me that much. In addition, there were no fan service, or the level did not pass my checkpoint. However, the anime is quite different.

The manga stresses or highlights the fact that people without abilities really can’t do much in such an environment – a city full of students with magical abilities or abilities of different kinds, whether all of the abilities are magical or not are really not the real story. However, as some people do not have any abilities at all, they are often picked on or rejected. Whenever there is a crime, they often just stand by and do nothing. It’s all up to our super powerful half of the heroines – Shirai Kuroko, and her crush – Misaka Mikoto – to save the day.

The anime starts out quite different. First of all, the number of heroines is increased to four, with the addition of the girl with flowers on her head, Uihara Kazaki, and Saten Ruiko, who has no powers. Those two appear in the manga, but in my impression, they’re not really part of “the team” of heroines. They’re more like main sidekicks, or at least, Ruiko seems that way; as a matter of fact, something happens to her in the manga by volume two and takes her “off” the “team”. But in the anime, the one without power steps up and plays an important part in helping to deal with the first major crime, which is shown in both the manga and anime. Her involvement is significant that the feeling of the overall tone changes a great deal from the manga. In short, you may not have superhuman power, but you can sure do something to help.

With good animation backing everything up, this show is a surprise for me.

Additional notes: in the beginning of the manga, Misaka Mikoto starts her fight with the male protagonist within the few 20 pages or so; in the anime, he’s not even in the first episode.

And, the fan service is still an epic fail according to my standards due to the lack of showing the actual goodies.